- Massachusetts Probation Service
Media Contact for Worcester District Court Probation Officer is honored with Community Hero Award for helping those impacted by human trafficking
Coria Holland, Communications Director
Massachusetts — Worcester District Court Probation Officer Kerry Coakley was presented with the Community Hero Award for 2019 by the Worcester-based Living in Freedom Together (LIFT) organization for helping victims and survivors caught in the web of human trafficking.
LIFT is a survivor-led organization working to end prostitution and empower individuals to exit and recover from the impacts of commercial sexual exploitation, according to LIFT Chief Executive Officer and Founder Nicole M. Bell. Coakley accepted the award at the LIFT annual fundraiser on June 8 held at First Baptist Church.
“Our Community Hero award is given to community members who have been a continued partner in our work to end prostitution, share and promote our vision for a community where survivors are valued, honored, and respected, and who have been diligent heroes working beside us to ensure survivors have the necessary resources and support they deserve,” stated Bell.
Coakley and Chief Probation Officer Maureen Chamberlain created the DAWN (Developing Alternatives for Women Now) Program, which began in 2002 as roundtable discussions with community organizations. The two MPS employees collaborated with the local YMCA’s Daybreak coordinator Cathy Boisvert to develop a program that would provide resources to women charged with prostitution-related offenses. This effort has become a labor of love for Coakley and Chamberlain who when the program is in session hold 90-minute meetings twice a week that feature guidance on how to exit prostitution, relapse prevention, domestic violence, self-care, and provide a meal, which Coakley and Chamberlain pay for with their own money. The DAWN Program is the only initiative of its kind in the Commonwealth.
“I love being a Probation Officer but nothing is more rewarding than the work I do with DAWN and the LIFT organization. I was humbled to be honored but this is not about me, it's about the women who have been exploited and traumatized by their life's experiences. They are some of the most amazing, resilient and bravest women I have ever known,” said Coakley.
She also helped establish Hope’s Closet — a Worcester District Court Probation free clothing, shoes, and housewares closet — to address the needs of DAWN participants. The closet has since expanded its reach to help any person in need at the court where employees donate new and gently used items.
“The Massachusetts Probation Service seeks to help probationers make positive life changes. Kerry’s work is reflective of this as it impacts those who struggle in silence and provides them with a voice and a way out of a dangerous situation. She has poured her heart into this work and the results show. Kerry is very deserving of this award,” said First Deputy Commissioner Dianne Fasano.