Debbie Matheson’s commitment to supporting families impacted by abuse has not only changed her life but has transformed the lives of hundreds in the Greene County community.
As executive director at the Family Violence Prevention Center of Greene County, Matheson strives to provide support for abused families to rebuild their lives.
Beginning as an volunteer with the non-profit in her college years, Matheson started assisting families and children through discussion groups, maintaining a comfortable space for them to share their experiences.
“Just seeing the small points that I can celebrate with the parents, with the children, as they are recovering from historic, sometimes layered, sometimes generational trauma, and being able to be there to celebrate small things with them. It’s been so rewarding,” Matheson said.
Matheson now works on expanding the non-profit, further the organization’s outreach. However, she also creates time to assist in the front lines, answering hotline calls, covering staffing shortages, and assisting in safe housing services.
“She is the epidemy of what a nonprofit leader should be,” said Tina Marker, Family Violence Prevention Center Board of Trustees vice president, who nominated Matheson as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem.
“She instills a lot of value in everyone she collaborates with and everyone she’s mentoring underneath of her... (It is) impressive, the fact that she’s looking at how she can help them and progress them to a new level and see where their skillsets can grow.”
Marker says Matheson’s relationships with staff and clients has made the job very rewarding.
As Matheson juggles the many responsibilities of a very heavy position, she does it all with a smile on her face.
“Debbie is that person to roll her sleeves up and do whatever has to be done to make sure we are there to take care of our clients,” Marker said.
Alongside her almost 30 years as an abuse prevention advocate, Matheson serves on leadership teams for Greene County law enforcement, judicial, and family violence collaboratives. She is a principal on the Family and Children’s First Council and is often used as an expert witness for the Greene County Prosecutor.
“I hate that the work has to be done but I count it a privilege to be here and help individuals in some of the darkest times in their lives,” Matheson said.
Matheson is not the only one in her family to work in this type of field.
While her husband and daughter both work as police officers, she says it’s just part of her family’s values, to help others.
Having come from a home full of love, Matheson knew how impactful a healthy home life is to a family’s growth.
Matheson described the moment when she saw a client finally able to connect with her child. This mother was finally able to enjoy playing with her child and rebuild a relationship with her child because she was in a space where she no longer had to live in survival mode.
“In my office the next day, there was a Pepsi cola keychain that (the mother) had gifted me. It had my name on it, and it said thank you, and her name on it,” Matheson said.
Matheson remembers crying, thinking about how small of an act this was from this mother yet how big of a step it was for this family.
Matheson’s unwavering compassion continues to shape and strengthen the lives of abused families in the Greene County community.
“My heart definitely is here...serving this community,” Matheson said.