MHPD’s Mindy Zen was instrumental in helping found the South County Family Justice Center

Published in the April 12 – April 25, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Staff Report

MHPD Officer Melinda Zen

The Helping Hands & Healing Hearts awards luncheon annually honors a South Valley community leader dedicated to improving the lives of others and a former Community Solutions client who has triumphed over personal adversity and changed the course of his/her future. This year’s lunch was held Friday March 16 and honored Morgan Hill Police Department officer Melinda Zen and a one-time client known as “Aurelia,” a survivor of domestic violence.

Gilroy Life asked Community Solutions President/CEO Erin O’Brien about the annual fundraising event and why the two women were honored.

What is the Helping Hands & Healing Hearts Awards Luncheon and why does Community Solutions put it on each year?

Our agency always wants to thank the community for making our work possible. While we select one person or organization to recognize each year as the Helping Hand recipient, we really exist because so many individuals, businesses and organizations support our work and our clients. The luncheon enables us to invite our supporters into our clients’ lives through the premiere of our annual client video and the words of our Healing Heart recipient. It is an opportunity for our guests to hear first-hand the difference their support makes.

Why is it important to recognize local community leaders who make the South Valley region a better place for all?

There are so many wonderful people doing remarkable things for others in our community and it’s important to share that good news. While Community Solutions works hard to improve the lives of our clients, we are but one organization and we do not operate in a vacuum. So many individuals and organizations support the healing of our clients through the work they do both as professionals and volunteers. Most do not seek recognition but we believe they deserve it. We have a deep and heartfelt gratitude to each and we look forward to the opportunity to share this.

Why was MHPD Officer Melinda Zen honored with this year’s award?

Officer Zen, now back on street patrol, was the domestic violence detective for the Morgan Hill Police Department from 2012 to 2016. She worked with survivors at their most vulnerable moments. She always approached them with respect, acceptance and compassion, empowering them to make necessary but sometimes difficult decisions to ensure their safety and healing. At a more institutional level, Officer Zen was instrumental in helping found the South County Family Justice Center and a key member of the South County Domestic Violence Response Team, both roles that helped ensure the seamless collaboration between law enforcement and service agencies such as ours.

Why was former Community Solutions client Aurelia presented with the award? What personal obstacles did she overcome that makes her an honoree?

As a survivor of domestic violence, Aurelia had to overcome the fear her abuser instilled in her on a daily basis just to reach out for help. She realized that what might seem too risky to do just for herself she absolutely needed to do to protect her son. Aurelia has worked diligently toward her own healing knowing it makes her a better mother. She has a favorite saying, “solo para delante, para atras ni para darte impulso” which translates to “always move forward — never go backward — not even to gain momentum.”