Meet our SafeChurch Team
Linda Crockett, Director of SafeChurch/SafePlaces
Linda was the vision behind the development and design of Samaritan SafeChurch in 2011, which grew out of her work as a consultant to congregations experiencing the often contentious dynamics that occur when a child is molested by a lay or ordained leader. Under her leadership, SafeChurch expanded to a national training platform. In 2016, she began work with the newly formed cohort of grantees and fellows of the Just Beginnings Collaborative on social movement building to end CSA. Her work focuses on shifting culture in congregational and other key settings so that adults are proactive about protecting children from sexual abuse throughout the community, creating a web of Safe Places with trusted adults.
Her first book “The Deepest Wound: How a Journey to El Salvador Led to Healing from Mother-Daughter Incest” (Writer’s Showcase) was published in 2001. As a church volunteer and activist, she accompanied refugees and survivors of torture during the civil war in El Salvador in the 1980s, working with church and human rights organizations. The book includes her personal narrative of childhood sexual abuse, intertwined with the violence experienced by the Salvadoran people. The Deepest Wound was awarded first place in the “Life Stories” category by Writer’s Digest in March 2003. The Journal of Pastoral Care and Counseling recommends its use in seminary and graduate school classrooms, and by therapists and pastoral care providers. She also contributed to Render Unto God: Economic Vulnerability, Family Violence and Pastoral Theology (Chalice Press, 2002; Poling, James; Ruiz, Brenda; Crockett, Linda), a cross cultural economic analysis of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
A review of the Deepest Wound on the website Confronting Collusion with Abuse in the Faith Community may be viewed here http://www.takecourage.org/deepwnd.htm
Deb Helt, Senior Facilitator & Congregation Support Specialist
Deb brings more than 20 years of experience as part of the pastoral team serving a dynamic independent congregation, Hosanna! A Fellowship of Christians in Lititz, PA that defines itself as an organic community with the motto of “Breaking rules, breaking barriers, and breaking chains”. She oversees programs for children and is on Hosanna’s Executive Leadership team. A trained Spiritual Director, Deb has also served as a ministerial guide for students at Lancaster Theological Seminary.
Deb joined the SafeChurch team in 2013 to serve as the primary facilitator of the one-year social movement building program for congregations in the Lancaster-York-Lebanon PA region. In 2016, her role expanded to reach congregations with SafeChurch throughout the Susquehanna Valley and surrounding region, and to provide follow-up support for faith communities engaging in the one-year SafeChurch process.
A pastoral and nurturing presence, as well as a passionate advocate for children, Deb skillfully guides core teams in each SafeChurch congregation to build the necessary infrastructure with policy and best practices while also focusing on shifting congregational culture to empower adults to use their power to protect children, and hold those who harm them compassionately, but firmly, accountable.
Dianne Renfro, Program Administrator
Dianne brings strength, skill and years of experience as an administrative director and comptroller in a not-for-profit organization focused on empowering survivors of child sexual abuse, a legal researcher for a private law practice in Lancaster, PA, and as staff attorney in the Child Support Unit of Department of Human Services in Oklahoma.
She joined Samaritan staff in 2012 to support the fledgling SafeChurch program, and has been an integral part of its growth into a national social movement building platform. She handles logistics, communications, scheduling, research, and marketing.
Bethany Smith, Organizing Coordinator for Education, Communication and Engagement
Bethany has more than 20 years of multinational experience working with Christian not-for-profits in areas related to development of community and social justice initiatives, fund raising, communication, and strategic planning.
Bethany joined the SafeChurch team in 2014 as a part time congregational educator on child sexual abuse prevention and response, and related topics. A dynamic and engaging teacher, Bethany works with full congregations, as well as small groups, to engage and equip adults to protect children from sexual violence. She also provides training on PA mandated reporting for church staff and volunteers. In 2016, her role expanded to include a focus on judicatory and denominational leadership, social media communications, and periodic legislative advocacy.
She is the founder of Not in My Back Yard, a Lancaster, PA based organization dedicated to the eradication of human trafficking.