Leanne Lawson, Executive Director
Leanne has 15 years of experience working with families throughout Dutchess County and has been with the Center since 2014. She has completed trainings in Transformative Mediation, Custody/Visitation, Surrogate’s Court, and other specialized trainings at the Center. Prior to becoming the Executive Director in 2019, Leanne was the Family & Divorce Program Coordinator where she helped hundreds of families work through conflict. Her previous experience in our community includes supervising an evidence-based perinatal home visiting program, running a comprehensive case management program for pregnant/parenting teenagers, facilitating bystander education workshops at local colleges, and working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
In May 2020 Leanne completed her Masters in Social Work degree at Adelphi University, including a clinical placement at the Palliative Care program at the VA Hudson Valley Health Care System (Castle Point Campus). Leanne received her Bachelor of Arts in English from SUNY New Paltz in 2003. She is certified in the Northeastern University Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) training along with the Cornell University Family Development Credential (FDC).
Claudia Abbott-Barish, Director of Restorative Justice Programs
Claudia has been a natural mediator since childhood and is a community organizer at heart. Her preoccupation with systemically unheard voices in society began while organizing around issues of environmental justice as an undergraduate student of natural resource management. In graduate school, Claudia studied sustainable development through an anthropological lens – examining who is represented, what perspectives and which voices are heard as humans examine our collective existence and impact on each other and the natural world. To her, systemic inequality equates with inequitable access to voice and choice. Claudia became a mediator through a desire to support community voices and a Restorative Justice practitioner to transform social relationships in society.
In 2013, Claudia returned to the Hudson Valley and began pursuing a certificate in Restorative Practices through the International Institute for Restorative Practices, which she completed in 2014. She was trained in Transformative Mediation at the Mediation Center of Dutchess County in 2014 and certified as a volunteer mediator in 2015. Since then she has participated in multiple advanced trainings at the Center and through other institutions, and has volunteered many hours in civil, workplace and family disputes. She became a meditator apprentice mentor in 2016 and began coordinating the Restorative Justice Initiative at the Center in 2017.
Her current focus is on social disciplinary practices and how to shift from punitive and isolating to restorative and collective. She believes in the power of people and the transformative impact of sharing stories and being heard. She is driven by a desire to help create effective alternatives to punishment and incarceration that focus on community healing and understanding, over policies that separate people from their families and support systems.
Des Padilla, Family & Divorce Program Coordinator
Denise Martin, Finance Manager (Consultant)
Denise has over 25 years of experience in Finance, of which almost 20 years were with Grants Management. She began her career working in banking for many years, then began her work with the City of Yonkers and was subsequently promoted through various government finance and accounting positions. It was during this time that Denise finished her college studies and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, with a major in Finance, from Pace University in Pleasantville, New York, Lubin School of Business. In 2011, Denise began working for Hunger Solutions New York, a statewide nonprofit organization that administers the SNAP program throughout New York State, as well as numerous Child Nutrition Programs in communities statewide. Serving as their Senior Accountant & Compliance Manager and Director of Finance & Administration, Denise learned the most intricate details of nonprofit finance. She and her fellow Finance staff led the organization to receive 7 years of unmodified annual audits, successfully operating in accordance with GAAP, NPRA, and Circular A-133 compliance, with no management letters/issues. As her knowledge and family grew, she established her own finance, accounting, grant-writing, and grant-seeking business, Denise A. Martin Expert Nonprofit Solutions, LLC, focusing on assisting nonprofits and the extraordinary budgetary challenges they face. Denise has worked with many area nonprofits, small businesses, and educational institutions. She began her contracted work with the Mediation Center in January of 2016, departed in October of 2017, then returned to the Center in December of 2019, and is happy to work among people she feels "are like family” on a regular basis. She resides in Dutchess County with her husband and 3 active daughters who vary significantly in age, always keeping her on her toes!