May, 2023

Get to Know Lisa Cioffi, Essex County CASA Director

Posted in CASA on May 23rd, 2023 with No Comments

Lisa Cioffi recently started a new role as the Essex County CASA Director at Family Services of the Merrimack Valley. A part of the CASA/GAL national organization, Essex County CASA helps support and promote court-appointed volunteer advocacy so every child who has experienced abuse or neglect can be safe, have a permanent home, and the opportunity to thrive. Learn more about Lisa, her career path, and what she hopes to accomplish in this new role.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Cambridge, MA. I went to college and law school in Boston and I have lived in southern New Hampshire for the last 15 years or so.

Can you talk to us a bit about your career path?
After graduating college, I worked for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children in their legislative policy program, which sparked my interest in child welfare law. I decided to go to law school with the intention of practicing in the child welfare field. After law school, I practiced as a trial lawyer for DCF for several years. I also served as assistant general counsel to DCF where, among other areas, I represented the agency in appellate litigation before the Massachusetts’ Appeals Court and the Supreme Judicial Court. I took some time off to raise my daughter and when I returned to work I opened my own law practice where I represented parents and children in the Juvenile Courts and in Probate Court. I also worked for several years as a court investigator and GAL in the Essex County Juvenile Courts. Prior to joining the Essex County CASA program, I worked as a program manager for three years at CASA of New Hampshire.

Why Essex County CASA?
This program, under the leadership of Family Services, has been instrumental in advocating for the best interests of the most vulnerable children in our community for over 30 years.

What are some of your goals in this new role?
My goal is to work in conjunction with our advocates, staff, and stakeholders to build the capacity of the program so that we can serve more children who need CASA advocates.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a homebody and like to hang out with my husband and daughter. We like to garden in the summer and cook together.

Donor Spotlight: Gary Sidell

Posted in Campaign to Build Change on May 21st, 2023 with No Comments

With our Campaign to Build Change renovations underway, we want to highlight some of our amazing donors, their inspirations, and what drives them to support Family Services. We spoke to Gary Sidell, Campaign Co-Chair and Board President.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Although I grew up in Framingham, I came to this area after college when I joined our family business which was located in Lawrence. When our business closed in 2001 I got into real estate using the buildings we owned in Lawrence and that blossomed into Bell Tower Management. I’m a long-time resident of North Andover where I raised my kids. Something people may not know about me is that I’m a piano player and musician—I perform around New England. In addition to serving on the Family Services board I am a supporter of the Lawrence History center, the Essex Art center and the Lawrence Partnership.

How did you learn about Family Services? What led you to get involved with the organization?
I first learned about Family Services from Kay Frishman, the former Executive Director, who was a good friend of my fathers. Kay was the one who asked me to join the board. One of the reasons I decided to get involved with Family Services was because it has always been super important to my family to get involved in the local community – whether that is bringing new life to our properties, furthering economic development or supporting effective non-profits.

Can you share more detail about your volunteer journey with Family Services?
I have been a mentor for 11 years. I’ve always enjoyed mentoring small businesses so it was a natural fit to mentor someone that could use a father figure. My mentee has been like part of our family. We’ve known him since he was six years old and he has been a really important part of our life. I’m really proud of how far he has come.

What inspires you about the work that Family Services does?
Our ability to impact families at every level. Being a stable force in a community that has been through a lot. Seeing the impact we’ve had on families over time. Being part of an agency that constantly re-invents itself. It’s a dedicated group of individuals that deeply care about our work.

What is the most important reason for people to support the Campaign to Build Change?
I think people should support the campaign because I am 100% confident that any gift made to this building and the campaign will be well invested with long term impact. It’s an investment that will come back to people ten-fold. I feel that the work that we are doing in a quiet, effective way will be amplified by what the campaign will allow us to do.

Why did you and your family decide to support the Campaign to Build change?
It’s an easy donation to make – I know where it is going and the impact it will have. I have confidence in how the money will be used. We feel good about being a piece of the puzzle.  

Learn more about our Campaign to Build Change at