A Towson woman wants to use the current focus on sexual assault as an opportunity to springboard the mission of a Cockeysville-based nonprofit organization that advocates for and assists child victims of sexual abuse.
“There’s a national groundswell happening around sexual assault and sexual abuse,” said Vanessa Milio, 47, of Idlewyld, the new executive director of the nonprofit, No More Stolen Childhoods. “We’re really empowered by the fact that victims are coming forward.”
Milio was appointed to lead the organization in the fall due to her extensive background in helping nonprofits succeed, said Wayne Coffey, the founder of No More Stolen Childhoods.
Coffey, who is a survivor of childhood sex abuse, created the nonprofit organization in 2004 with the mission of raising awareness about abuse, protecting children, and helping victims to heal, according to the nonprofit’s website.
The small outreach effort, which started with Coffey giving talks where he could and the distribution of safety-themed coloring books, grew over the years. Today, it includes about 10 volunteers, a 10-member board of directors and plans for a $500,000 annual budget in 2018 raised through private donors. Milio is the organizations’s only paid staff member.
The organization works to create and distribute educational materials, such as coloring books, pamphlets and a book written by Coffey about his abuse and volunteers to meet with victims one-on-one to talk through their issues and refer victims to voluntary counseling services. The nonprofit has hired part-time directors in the past, but a recently completed strategic plan outlined the need for a full-time director to broaden the organization’s reach, Coffey said.
The group’s mission appealed to her as soon as she learned the true extent of child sex abuse, Milio said.
Research gathered by the Centers for Disease Control, which the nonprofit shares on its website and educational materials, estimates that 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18.
“Once I learned about the organization, met Wayne and read his book, it was hard not to get involved,” Milio said. “I’ve spent most of my career in nonprofits, but being able to address a different need is important.”
Though she grew up in Carroll County, her father, Dr. Frank Milio, spent 43 years as a chemistry professor at Towson University, and she’s always been familiar with Baltimore and Baltimore County, Milio said
She graduated from the Friends School of Baltimore in 1987 before earning a bachelor's degree in printmaking from the University of Hartford, in Connecticut, and a master's degree in printmaking and bookmaking from The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, in 1993.
For the past few years, Milio has focused on nonprofit consulting, advising clients in the Baltimore area and beyond.
Over the past 20 years, she has promoted economic development and the interests of Harford County as the former president and CEO of the Harford County Chamber of Commerce and foundation director for the Harford County Public Library, according to officials at No More Stolen Childhoods.
While serving as president of the Harford County Chamber, Milio was known for her strong work ethic, vision and leadership, according to the chamber’s former board chair, Eric McLauchlin.
Her varied background of nonprofit experience lent itself to the chamber’s mission of advocating for business and growth in the county and its ability to positively impact the region, McLauchlin said in a Dec. 14 email.
“Over time, Vanessa truly began to be seen as a premiere influencer and leader by the business community, nonprofit community and government alike,” McLauchlin said. “For that reason, among others, it was truly our community’s loss when she was attracted by her next opportunity.”
Milio has also worked with children, as executive director of Baltimore Police Athletic League, Inc., an after-school program for Baltimore City youth, and as the program director and founder of the Raising Strong Sisters Program, an after-school program hosted by the YMCA of Central Maryland for middle school girls.
She was a project director for the YMCA of Central Maryland’s Urban Services Branch, and youth and family services director for the Y’s Towson branch.
This story has been updated.
Milio said she would like to increase private fundraising to expand the number of grants No More Stolen Childhoods can offer abuse victims and add legislative advocacy to the organization’s efforts.
“There’s a lot of things that make the process difficult for families that are going through [abuse],” Milio said. “Ultimately we’d like to be able to streamline that process.”