“The goal is to offer an array of services here in the valley, so families don’t have to travel to Brattleboro or Bennington,” Pelosi said.
For the past several years, Pelosi has offered his counseling services at various office locations around southern Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York. He has even outfitted a small motor home as a mobile office for counseling youth in outlying areas.
Pelosi’s decision to purchase the Jacksonville center was, at least in part, driven by demand. “My counseling practice has gotten busier and busier,” Pelosi said. “And there are more services I want to offer.”
Pelosi said there is a lack of family services in the valley, but the need for a local counseling center was made clear to him after Tropical Storm Irene flooding last year. “After the flood, I found myself volunteering at the high school, assessing and evaluating the emotional trauma experienced by so many of our residents,” he recalls. “The scene was makeshift and less than desirable for people’s privacy and confidentiality. I wanted a place they could go specifically to meet their immediate needs for trauma counseling.”
It was after his flood experience that Pelosi began looking for a space larger than the small office he had been renting locally. “I was looking for a space that would accommodate children and families that would be warm and welcoming,” he says, “a place that would feel calming and serve as a peaceful escape from crisis. The new building will be just that space.”
Pelosi thanks the former owners of the building, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for making the purchase possible. “They were just amazing,” he said. “I’ve never had a business transaction handled with so much honor and integrity. They made the purchase possible when it looked like it wouldn’t be.”
The building is named after one of Pelosi’s early mentors, Sara Sellinger.
Pelosi offers a wide range of services ranging from training for parents with children that are difficult to deal with, such as children with autism spectrum disorders or multiple diagnoses, to anger management or bullying counseling.
Pelosi also created No Broken Kids, a program for parents and care providers of children with severe behavioral disorders. Pelosi says the training seminars are in great demand, drawing interest from all over the East Coast, and he plans to offer the workshops at the Jacksonville location.
Although he hasn’t fully fleshed out a list of services at the new location, he has a pretty good idea of what’s needed. One thing missing from the valley, for instance, is a space for court-ordered supervised parental visits. Currently, families that need supervised visits must travel to Brattleboro.
In addition to his counseling services, Pelosi also works as a consultant and expert witness. Earlier this year, Pelosi was appointed to a legislative gang activity task force created under a bill passed during the last legislative session.
According to the bill, the task force is intended to raise public awareness of gang activity and organized crime in Vermont, identify resources for law enforcement, and recommend ways of encouraging the public to report gang and organized crime activity. Pelosi says he was tapped to sit on the committee because of his experience working with gang members, particularly in Springfield, MA. “I have specific expertise working therapeutically within gangs, rather than from the outside.”
Sellinger was the director of a treatment program for children who were considered hopeless cases in the 1970s. Sellinger accepted violent offenders, prostitutes, and sex offenders, many of whom were barely in their teens. She staffed her program with young idealists, including Pelosi. He says her strategy was to love the kids back to health. He says she taught him that there are no broken kids, and he has followed her strategy of loving kids to heal them. “She taught the world that every kid has value; to love and value every kid,” said Pelosi. “She was thrilled to hear about the center.”
Pelosi says the former church fits his practice almost perfectly. “It’s got a big group space for parenting groups, bullying groups, and other therapy groups,” as well as smaller rooms for one-on-one counseling. “The building needs a few minor fixes but, beyond that, it’s in great shape.”
Pelosi says he’s also open to sharing the space with small nonprofit groups, service agencies, even probation counselors.
For more information about Pelosi, his practice, and No Broken Kids, visit www.southernvermont.us or call the center at (802) 464-2220.