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    Nicole Acosta to be honored at Citizens of the Year dinner

    Nicole Acosta, the director of Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, is the Times-Mirror 2014 Nonprofit Citizen of the Year. - Times-Mirror File Photo
    Nicole Acosta has won many awards for her work as the director of the Loudoun Abused Women's Shelter, but ultimately she appreciates it more when her entire organization is recognized.

    "[The Times-Mirror] is sending a message to the community that what we do is important. We are really grateful for that," said Acosta.

    Domestic violence, especially sexual violence, can be a taboo topic for discussion, said Acosta.

    LAWS, a program under Loudoun Citizens for Social Justice, runs a shelter for abused women, provides legal services, a teen violence prevention program and youth and child services, among other social programs.

    Their newest program is the Loudoun Child Advocacy Center, which covers all aspects of violence and sexual abuse among children.

    The program works to make sure the childrens' cases are being prosecuted and that they aren't falling through the cracks.

    Acosta says she's always gratified that people recognize the organization for addressing what she says is ultimately a community-wide problem.

    "When the community recognizes the organization it is important, because the community is recognizing that there is a problem," she said.

    Acosta has had an inclination toward a career in social work since she was young.

    "Growing up I did a lot of volunteer work," she said.

    It was during an internship at an Action in Community Through Service, a social work nonprofit in Prince William, that Acosta said she became aware that she wanted to work with victims of domestic violence.

    She was then earning her college degree in social work from James Madison.

    Acosta later attended The Catholic University of America to pursue a graduate degree in social work.

    While in graduate school Acosta got a part-time job at LAWS doing overnight shifts on the hotline.

    Directly after graduation she became director of the children's program.

    "I was in charge of all of the counseling advocacy, support groups," said Acosta. "A big part of that is working with their parents too."

    In 2012, executive director Susan Curtis retired.

    The board hired Acosta to replace her. It had never been Acosta's goal to become the director.

    Initially she thought the way she would help people was with face-to-face interactions.

    Now she believes she can have the greatest impact by making sure the organization is successful in the work it does.

    According to Acosta her most rewarding moments come when people stop by to say hi and update her on how they're doing.

    "I've been here long enough to see young children who bring friends or refer other victims," she said.

    She also mentioned working with great people saying, "We are all here to support each other."

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