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Vital Team

The Team

Two organizations with extensive experience providing technical assistance, Mission Spark and the Center on Domestic Violence, have designed Vital to provide customized management enhancement services to you and other DVP grantees throughout Colorado.

  • Mission Spark, LLC (www.missionspark.org) partners with philanthropy, nonprofit and social enterprise leaders to achieve transformative social change and to strengthen the social sector. They work to achieve this mission by providing results-driven consulting, training, and facilitation in Colorado. Mission Spark consultants have experience working with DVP direct service providers, state-wide funders and domestic violence service and prevention partners.
  • The Center on Domestic Violence (www.domesticviolence.ucdenver.edu)is an academic, research and service center at the University of Colorado Denver that prepares individuals and organizations to successfully lead and manage efforts to prevent and respond to interpersonal violence through education, training and technical assistance.   With an experienced staff dedicated to social change and strong connections to the field, the center has trained over 4,500 domestic violence advocates and service providers, established direct services for a campus of 55,000 students in Denver, and helped design a management curriculum for leaders across the country representing under-served communities.

In addition, we are working very closely with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV), through a partnership agreement, to streamline and integrate requests for technical assistance, and to better meet the needs of Colorado Domestic Violence Programs.

  • CCADV is a coalition of members, supported by staff, committed to the creation of an empowered society in which all people live free from violence and abuse. Toward that end, their working vision is that by 2020, the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence will be the trusted and valued leader in expanding the capacity of Colorado’s domestic violence programs, allied professionals, policymakers, and the public, to dramatically reduce domestic violence in the Colorado.

Together, we look forward to supporting you and your organization through one-on-one training and technical assistance that meets your individual needs. We are funded by CDHS Domestic Violence Program. For more information about DVP, please visit their website here.

Contact Us

Kara Penn is the point of contact for Vital.

Email: VitalProjectColorado@gmail.com / Phone: 303-579-2219


Vital has a strong commitment to your confidentiality and no information about your needs or services provided will be shared. Reports about the work of this project will be provided in aggregate to the funder with no specific identifying information.

Why We Do It

In order for victims of domestic violence to find safety and support, they often seek and should receive help from well-run and efficient direct service organizations. Access to information and support for domestic violence organizations on management best practices is, therefore, vital (hence, our name). This may be especially true in poor and rural communities with underserved populations where organizations may lack access to high quality, nonprofit management training.

Vital has been designed to respond to today’s most pressing management training needs among domestic violence nonprofit organizations. These needs will be addressed through an approach that allows leaders, managers, board members and others from DVP-funded programs and allied professionals to engage in highly interactive, practical and in-depth training and receive individualized support and problem solving through technical assistance.

The Staff

Vital is led by staff with more than 50 combined years of experience working in direct victim service, advocacy organizations, and nonprofit administration.

Ms. Barbara Paradiso, MPA, is the founder and Director of the Center on Domestic Violence.  Barbara has worked on behalf of battered women and their children for more than thirty years as an advocate, administrator and activist.  Prior to her position at CU Denver, she served as the Director of Domestic Violence Programs for the Sunshine Lady Foundation of North Carolina.  For twelve years, from 1985-1997, Barbara was the Executive Director of Boulder County Safehouse.  She has participated on the boards of both the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and has been Principal Investigator on over $2.2 million in federal and state grants and contracts addressing domestic and sexual violence victimization. Barbara has presented and provided consultation to organizations on a state, local and national level on topics related to violence against women and children, as well as, effective non-profit administration.

Ms. Kara Penn, MBA, MPP is a Principal Consultant for Mission Spark. Kara cares about positive and innovative social change and her career and education reflect that passion.  Kara has 15 years of experience as a manager, facilitator, board member and consultant in Colorado and throughout the United States. She has worked on state-wide Domestic Violence service and prevention planning. Previously, as a senior consultant and trainer for the Community Resource Center, Kara authored “Start Up for Success: Planning, Founding and Initiating a New 501(c)3″, a comprehensive and practical workbook for non profit start-up and early implementation. Kara and an MIT faculty member are currently under contract to author a general management book to be published by Harvard Business Review Press in Spring 2014.  Kara graduated from The Colorado College, where she was a Boettcher Scholar. She completed her MPP at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, and her MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. She has been the recipient of several national fellowships, including the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, the Coro Fellowship in Public Affairs, and the Forte Fellowship.

The Technical Assistance Team

The TA Team consists of highly seasoned trainers and technical assistance providers from both rural and urban communities, each with more than ten years experience successfully managing a domestic violence service organization In addition to Vital staff, members of the TA Provider Team for the project are:

Ms. Vicki Lutz  – Vicki has been the executive director of Colorado’s Crossroads Safehouse since 2004, and held the same title at New York’s Pace Women’s Justice Center for the 10 years prior to that time. She was a law professor for ten years, teaching on Domestic Violence and Criminal Law. Earlier she was a senior assistant district attorney and specialized in sexual assault and domestic violence litigation.  In addition to training thousands on myriad gender abuse issues, domestic violence expert testimony, and nonprofit leadership in America, Canada, and Africa, she has been a TTAC trainer and an NNEDV webinar presenter. She has authored more than 15 books or articles, and raised millions of federal dollars for her organizations. In 2011, she led a three-year $6.3 million capital campaign so that Crossroads could open a new Safehouse large enough to house their six-person legal department, Medical Unit, 25 transitional housing apartments, and 104-bed state-of-the-art emergency shelter.

Ms. Ellen Stein – Ellen was the Executive Director of SafeHouse Denver from 1998 – 2007. She also spent 12 years as the Director of Socio-Economics and Health Care Policy for the Colorado Medical Society.  Ellen has over 25 years of policy, program planning and development experience.  She received her MSW from the University of Denver and is also trained in mediation.  Ellen has served on various community boards and committees including the Family Violence Steering Committee of the Colorado Bar Association, the Family Violence Prevention Initiative of Mile High United Way, the Board of Denver PFLAG, and the Violence Prevention Advisory Committee of the Colorado Department of Health.  She is currently the Coordinator for the Denver Domestic Violence Community Action Campaign.

Ms. Ruth Ann Russell – Ruth Ann has 30 plus years of experience in providing direct, supervisory and administrative services in not for profit, human service agencies, including thirteen years at Family Tree as Deputy Director, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer.  The agency at the time of her leadership had a budget of $6.5 million, 150 employees, three program divisions, 25 sites and specialized in helping families and individuals overcome domestic violence, homelessness and child abuse.  She also worked in leadership positions at Denver SafeHouse, Warren Village and Denver Children’s Advocacy Center.  She has served on the boards of Colorado Nonprofit Association, Project Safeguard, Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Karlis Community and Historic Grant Avenue.

Ms. Peg McGavock – Peg was the Co-founder of RESPONSE: Help for Survivors of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault located in Aspen, Colorado and served as its Executive Director for 27 years until 2010.  She was an active member of the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) and served on CCADV’s board for several terms as the Rural Issues Representative. She was also CCADV’s Region IV Representative and Board Secretary. Peg also served on the board of the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. More recently she has served domestic violence survivors in Pitkin County as Secretary of the Board of Alpine Legal Services, member of Pitkin County’s Domestic Violence Task Force, board member of the Center for Conflict Resolution and member of Pitkin County Adult Protection Team.

Ms. Carol Simmons – Carol began volunteering with Alternative Horizons (AH), an organization offering advocacy and support to survivors of domestic violence in Durango, Colorado in 1983. In 1991 she was promoted to Coordinator of AH and later became its Executive Director, a position she held until 2002.  As the Executive Director, Ms. Simmons introduced regular teen dating violence presentations in local high schools; added a court advocate position; hired a Latina outreach coordinator and initiated bilingual support groups; developed a legal project to provide survivors with representation in divorce and custody cases; and, grew in staff from one person to five.  Carol was a founding member of the Southwest Colorado Violence Prevention Coalition and on the board of the Colorado Domestic Violence Coalition. Currently she is a member of the board of directors of Alternative Horizons.


Vital also has access to additional technical assistance providers who serve as faculty and instructors in nonprofit and public management at the School of Public Affairs at CU Denver.

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