Kimberly Pack, the daughter of slain Linwood veterans advocate April Kauffman, and her attorneys, D’Arcy Johnson Day, will be among the honorees Wednesday at Avanzar’s recognition event for local heroes.
“We celebrate the people in the community who pursue the same outcomes that we do for individuals and clients. We feel it’s important to recognize all of them and all of the support we get from the community each year,” said Fran Wise, Avanzar director of development.
Pack, 36, of Linwood, who has been working with Avanzar for the past few months, said she was blown away by the gesture.
She said she is proud to bear the title of survivor, despite all she has been through: a five-year murder investigation that resulted in her stepfather being charged along with a group of Pagans motorcycle gang associates and members.
“When you’re going through something like this, it’s such a lonely journey,” Pack said. “To be called a survivor is such a powerful title because I did make it, even through the darkest days.”
Avanzar rebranded itself from The Women’s Center of Atlantic County last year to better align with the clientele it was serving, from victims of domestic violence to sexual assault to racial inequality.
“We recognized that our name, The Women’s Center, did not reflect the diversity of our clients and programming,” said CEO Claudia Ratzlaff. “Avanzar is a Spanish word that means ‘to move forward’ and ‘to progress,’ which defines what we desire for our clients and our community.”
This will be the local advocacy group’s first “Evening in Spring” after years of hosting a spring luncheon. Those also being honored include the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders' first woman chairperson, Amy Gatto; AtlantiCare Chief Operating Officer Margaret Belfield; and Avanzar Director of Social Justice Programming Tamu Lane.
Pack said she had nominated her attorneys, brothers Patrick and Andrew D’Arcy, for standing by her side through the entire investigation into her mother’s murder. She said she was also very excited to see Gatto’s name among the list of honorees.
“I think as a female in our county and just in our area, she really loves our community and does so much,” Pack said. “I think she’s just a positive female role model.”
Pack was approached by Ratzlaff six months ago at a Crime Stoppers event to volunteer at Avanzar.
“I was so excited. My mom was such a giver and such a charitable person and was involved in so many charities, and it was a little overwhelming,” she said. “I think it was so hard to find what my place was, but I knew that in her honor I wanted to do something to give back.”
For the first time since her mother’s murder May 10, 2012, Pack said she feels at ease.
“I think it’s only the beginning,” she said. “It’s such a peaceful place to be now that I can focus and channel that energy into something that will hopefully make a difference in our community.”