Leadership & Staff

Board of Directors

  • Debra Kousouros, Esq., President
  • Kristen Gizzi, Vice President
  • Blakely Brodbeck, Secretary
  • Julia Peloso-Barnes, Treasurer
  • Esmeralda Cruz
  • Jill Deitch
  • Monica Martinez Hess
  • Martha Obler Kohn, LMSW
  • Ken Marsolais
  • Dan Schorr
  • Elizabeth Zimmerman

Advisory Board

  • Sheryl Dale, Chair, Assistant Director, Mohawk Day Camp
  • Patricia Carrera, CFP®, CDFA, Financial Professional, AXA Advisors, LLC
  • Jean Marie Connolly, Senior Director, Altium Wealth Management, LLC
  • Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, CareMount Medical
  • Tom Gardner
  • Gina R. Jackson
  • Gerard A. Klingman, President, Klingman and Associates, LLC
  • Penney J. Klingman
  • Jeffrey Kohn, Managing Partner, New York, O’Melveny & Myers LLP
  • Diane Rooney
  • David M. Ryan, Chief of Police Pound Ridge
  • Ira M. Schulman, Partner, Pepper Hamilton LLP
  • Joel Seligman, President & CEO, Northern Westchester Hospital
  • Nancy K. Simpkins
  • Michael A. Stillman, MD
  • Helen Williams
  • Eric I. Wrubel, Esq., Partner, Warshaw Burstein, LLP
  • Irina Zhabinskaya, MD, Medical Director, Pediatrics, Northern Westchester Hospital


Executive Staff

CarlLa Horton, MPA, Executive Director

CarlLa Horton was appointed Executive Director of Hope’s Door in 1997, three years after receiving her graduate degree from the School of Business and Public Administration at Bernard Baruch College where she graduated first in her executive MPA class. Horton grew up in a family plagued by poverty and domestic violence and sees her work as an outgrowth of her social justice and feminist principles. During her tenure at Hope’s Door, the agency’s annual revenues grew from $560,000 to more than $1.8 million while the annual number of victims served grew from 250 to 765. Horton serves on the Advisory Committee to the New York State Senate Task Force on Domestic Violence, the Westchester County Domestic Violence Council, the Westchester Women’s Agenda, the Legislative Committee of the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and as a member of the New York Women’s Equality Coalition, among other activist work.


Jennifer Ryan Safsel, BA, Director of Development & Community Relations

Jennifer Ryan Safsel joined Hope’s Door in January 2013 as Director of Development and Community Relations. A graduate of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, Safsel began her career on Capitol Hill as a staff assistant to then U.S. Senator John Kerry, now U.S. Secretary of State. She also served as the Hudson Valley coordinator of his presidential campaign. In addition, Safsel worked on Capitol Hill for the National Association of Counties and the American Nurses Association. As the founder of Sagamore Strategies, Safsel worked with non-profits, small businesses, corporations, and candidates for public office on a range of services that include grassroots volunteer building, communications strategies, fundraising, political action and policy development.

Phillip G. Morton, BS, Chief Financial Officer

Phillip G. Morton joined Hope’s Door as Comptroller in 2008 after 25 years of work in both the private sector and nonprofit fund accounting field. Prior to Hope’s Door, Morton worked at Abbott House, Kaiser Permanente and Waldenbooks. Morton received his BS degree in Accounting with a minor in Psychology from the University of New Haven and serves as the Treasurer of the Tarrytown YMCA.


Dianne DeFilippis, MS, Director of Administration

Dianne DeFilippis joined Hope’s Door in 2008 as a Domestic Violence Counselor and Teen Educator, and now serves as Director of Administration. Her duties encompass facilities management at our sites in Hawthorne and Ossining, human resources administration, volunteer management, and oversight of IT needs. DeFilippis has a BS from Mercy College and a MS in Counseling from Pace University.

Senior Staff

May Krukiel, MA, M.Ed., Director of Residential Services

May Krukiel joined Hope’s Door in January 2015 as the Director of Residential Services where she oversees service delivery in our emergency shelter program. She is responsible for client services, staff development, volunteer coordination, facilities oversight and grants management. Client services include survivor empowerment, safety planning, danger assessments, counseling, advocacy, support groups, life skills, court preparation, economic empowerment, and a 24/7 crisis hotline program. Krukiel is highly regarded for her work against gender-based violence. Prior to Hope’s Door, she served for eight years as the Director of Victims Assistance Services at WestCOP, a primary provider of domestic violence and sexual assault services, and for eleven years at the Rockland Family Shelter as their Director of Sexual Trauma Services. Krukiel is a current board member and past chair of the Westchester Women’s Agenda. She has served on the Westchester County Domestic Violence Council, the Westchester County Criminal Justice Advisory Board and the board of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault. She founded and co-chaired the Westchester LGBTQ Task Force and has been an active member of New York’s LGBTQ DV Network, among other activist work. Krukiel earned a BA from Douglass College of Rutgers University, an MA in Clinical and School Psychology from Adelphi University and a M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology from Boston University.


Debbie Lauro-Conn, LCSW-R, Director of Community Services

Debbie Lauro-Conn joined Hope’s Door in 2013 as the Director of Community Services.  Lauro-Conn serves as a member of the Senior Management Team and oversees victim services and prevention initiatives at Hope’s Door sites in Pleasantville and Ossining and at the Family Justice Center in White Plains. Programs include counseling, support groups, courthouse advocacy, children’s services, teen program, multi-cultural services, and economic empowerment. Lauro-Conn came to Hope’s Door with over 30 years of extensive clinical, program development and administrative experience in mental health and substance abuse.  Prior to Hope’s Door, Lauro-Conn was the Executive Director of AMIC, the Director of Development for Putnam Family & Community Services and the Mental Health Clinic Director at Family Services of Westchester.  Lauro-Conn received her BA in Psychology from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and her MSW in Direct Services from Florida State University.  Lauro-Conn also has advanced training in Family Systems Treatment and Alcohol/Substance Abuse Treatment.  Lauro-Conn is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Academy of Certified Social Workers.

Gay French-Ottaviani, LCSW-R, CP, Senior Domestic Violence Counselor

Gay French-Ottaviani, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a member of AGPA and NASW, and a Certified Practitioner of Psychodrama, Sociometry and Group Psychotherapy, joined Hope’s Door in 2001. French-Ottaviani serves as our Senior Domestic Violence Counselor, specializes in individual counseling and support group services for adult survivors of abuse, and provides supervision for the Hope’s Door counseling staff and interns. A graduate of New York University’s MSW program, Professor French-Ottaviani has taught Intimate Partner Abuse at Long Island University and Pace University and has run psychodrama groups for court adjudicated youth, dual diagnosis adults and adolescents at Four Winds Psychiatric Hospital. She is Co-Chair of NEWDAA, a consortium of DV experts, clergy, police and other first responders with common purpose to raise Domestic Abuse awareness in NE Westchester. She has a private practice in Pound Ridge.


Multi-cultural Services

Coco Kausar Alvi, LCSW-R, Domestic Violence Counselor/Advocate

Coco Kausar Alvi joined Hope’s Door in 2005, where she provides counseling and advocacy services with a focus on South Asian and Muslim victims of abuse. Alvi is fluent in Urdu, Hindi and Punjabi, which makes her an invaluable asset for multi-cultural services. Prior to Hope’s Door, Alvi served as the Domestic Violence Program Director at the South Asian Women’s Association in Queens and with the United Nations Population Fund where she conducted research in the impact of gender-based violence on women and girls. Through Behbud USA, she works to empower Muslim and Pakistani women; and she is active with the American Muslim Women’s Association, which awarded her a Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation. Alvi has served on the Westchester County Women’s Advisory Board since 2011. She received her MSW from the Columbia University School of Social Work and her BA in Psychology and Women’s Studies from Purchase College.

Ashley Gil, BA, Domestic Violence Counselor/Advocate

Ashley Gil joined Hope’s Door in 2015 as a Bilingual-Spanish Domestic Violence Counselor/Advocate in our Community Services program, providing counseling, advocacy and support group services at our Hawthorne and Ossining sites. Gil works in partnership with survivors on safety planning and danger assessment; identification of barriers to safety, independence and healing from the trauma of abuse; developing goals for a life free of abuse; and launching a plan to achieve those goals. Prior to Hope’s Door, Gil worked as a teacher at the New England Country Day School and as a Campus Ministry Leader in Johannesburg, South Africa. Gil has a BA from the University of Connecticut and studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.



  • Christopher Barrera, BA
  • Brittany H., BA
  • Caitlin Hayles, BA
  • Maya Lloyd, BS
  • Kacie Martinucci, BA
  • Jasmine O., MA
  • Brenda Rodriguez, MS
  • Rachel S., MHC
  • Tami Shimkin, BA
  • Jennifer T., BS
  • Liz Van Buren, MS
  • Mary Zottoli, MA