Now, many towns have such volunteers and Anthony Winchatz is retired from the department—but not from the important work he began all those years ago. Winchatz is the director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Resource Center of Somerset, in Hillsborough, which is marking its 35th anniversary this year.
"I attended a training program on domestic violence and felt strongly about how enforcement and victims right went hand in hand," retired Lt. Winchatz said. He had volunteered to assist in establishing the team in Bridgewater and then-Chief Dix Fetzer agreed. Winchatz then followed up by becoming the first Domestic Violence instructor for the Somerset County Police Academy and member of the NJ Attorney General's task force to implement training and organize response teams statewide.
He also helped start the Resource Center's annual candlelight vigil to remember the hundreds of victims of domestic violence and the ongoing effort to address the issue, held in October in Somerville—until now.
On Oct. 17, the 25th Candlelight Vigil will be held at the Bridgewater Township Municipal Complex, the first time outside of Somerville, in a nod to the township's leadership in battling domestic violence—and to increase awareness of the event.
"As we move forward, we are increasing our outreach to every corner of the communities we serve," Winchatz said. "We want to be accessible and ready to respond to the needs of our clients and those who may need our services in the future."
He said Bridgewater was the first community in New Jersey to initiate a Domestic Violence Response Team of volunteer advocates, earning its place as the first to host the vigil.
The 90-minute event will begin at 6 p.m., with speakers and a candlelight procession in the courtyard. Bridgewater Mayor Daniel Hayes, Assemblywoman Donna Simon and Resource Center Executive Director Christine Schaumburg will be among the speakers, as well as a Resource Center client.
A Memoriam to victims who died at the hands of abusers from 1976 to the present will also be held.