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Updated: April 6, 2020 / 2020 Women in Business Awards

Diverse career leads Foster to front lines of domestic-violence support

Photo | J. Fiereck Photogrphy
Mary-Jane Foster Q&A
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Mary-Jane Foster seems destined to lead Interval House, the domestic-violence agency based in Hartford that assists nearly 5,000 women, men and children each year across 24 communities.

“Everything I’ve done in my career has a straight line through it as a result of my work as a domestic-violence volunteer 30 years ago,” explains Foster. “I had never even heard of domestic violence and was astonished by how the work could transform lives. And then it transformed mine.”

Inspired, she continued to volunteer while working as an actress, then returned to school, becoming a family law attorney. A series of stops along the way included serving as vice president of university relations at the University of Bridgeport, co-founding and owning a minor-league baseball team and running for mayor of Bridgeport. After all that, life circled back around and in 2017 she was offered the chance to be president and CEO of Interval House, which provides safety planning, options, support and community-resource connections to domestic-violence victims.

The nonprofit has a $2.4-million budget and 36 employees.

“This opportunity fell into my lap from the sky,” she says. “It was meant to be.”

“Those who preceded me did a masterful job,” she adds. “It had grown organically over the years and, I say this with love and fondness, it was time for someone with fresh eyes to take a holistic look at operations and best practices.”

Since Foster arrived, the organization has seen revenue growth of $700,000, primarily from grants, which helped to fund five new hires and, for the first time, two of the advocates are imbedded in police departments in East Hartford and Hartford to work in partnership with the force.

Foster aided in partnering with other community organizations focused on immigrant victims of domestic violence including: American Place, a program of the Hartford Public Library, Connecticut Immigration and Refugee Institute, Catholic Charities, and the Hispanic Health Council. She promoted the need for an art and music therapy program for children living in the organization’s safe house.

“I’ve learned I experience risk differently than most people,” says Foster. “I’m not a mountain climber and I’m not going skydiving, but I always look and ask ‘What’s the very worst that can happen?’ And, if I fail, I get back up. I don’t want anyone to ever say: ‘She could have, but she didn’t.’ ”

Robinson & Cole Partner Eric Daniels is an honorary director of Interval house and worked closely with her as a member of the Men Make A Difference, Men Against Domestic Violence Group.

“I’ve been amazed by the tremendous impact she has had in a relatively short period of time,” he says. “She’s an innovative and strategic leader, and she’s passionate about her work. Through her leadership, Interval House has expanded its programs and services while at the same time raising enough revenue to run a balanced budget. That’s impressive.”

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April 8, 2020

Great profile of a very deserving honoree. Mary Jane has drive and commitment. She is always looking fir ways to make things better. Hartford should be thankful she is part of our community.

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