MONTCLAIR, NJ - Nearly 100 people gathered on Monday evening at Montclair's Crane Park to honor the lives of those lost to domestic violence.
In the dark, attendees and loved ones held up posters with the names of victims. While also holding purple candle lanterns, attendees prayed, spoke of loved ones who lost their lives to domestic violence and shared the need for education and advocacy.
Hosted by Start Out Fresh Intervention Advocates (fondly referred to as S.O.F.I.A.), founder Cynthia Walker expressed the need for additional resources to assist those in need. Founded nearly ten years ago, Walker's 501(c)(3) non-profit organization provides advocacy, supportive services and referrals for temporary housing to “at risk” women and children of domestic violence.
Following the prayer, Walker addressed the crowd stating that her goal is to continue to partner with organizations to be able to help more people, especially the youth.
She stated, "With awareness, there is hope. By educating our youth, we hope they will grow into well-meaning adults. That's the key that I believe."
S.O.F.I.A. also offers a variety of free workshops to help in the process of emotional healing and financial independence.
Among those in attendance included Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin, Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, Montclair Councilwoman Renee Baskerville and former Orange Councilman Elroy Corbett.
Beverly Cotton and her son Macon Cotton, III, of Cotton's Funeral Home were also in attendance representing their beloved granddaughter and daughter, Katrina Perry. Perry is the daughter of Cotton, II, who recently lost her life on September 26.
Other families representing loved ones were in attendance, including Monica Paul. Signs held with victims' names included: Monica Paul, Angela Bledsoe, Elizabeth Mae Eaddy, Ashley Jones, Shanae Howard, Karen Bermudez-Rodriguez, Shazmina Khan, Aquilla Flood, Elizabeth Alston, Tiniquah Rouse, Ava and Nova.
Several organizations were represented at the vigil including the Essex County Links, the Montclair Drifters, and the Montclair Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta.
Tracey Munford took the opportunity to praise Walker for always being available to assist those in need, no matter the day or time.
She said, "She will find a place for them in the middle of the night, without pause."
Munford went on to state that Walker has even helped her niece in Maryland, who needed support.
In a tearful exchange, she continued in addressing Walker directly, "You have been a blessing to me and my family and to all of the women you've helped."
For more information, visit https://supportsofia.org