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Carolyn Thomas-Russell, MSW, MA

Executive Director​​



Donalyn Edwards-Dunn

Director of Operations​

Vivian Irving

Interim Program Manager


Board Members

Andrea Turner


Program Director

Senior Companion & Foster Grandparent Programs

Aging & Adult Services Division

Department of Human Services

City of Oakland


Kathleen Cha

Vice President

Retired - Senior Communications Officer

Cherry Washington


Retired, Psychiatric Nurse

Crystal Ramie-Adams

Board Member

Human Resources Manager

Oakland Public Library


​Danielle McCurry

Board Member

Center for Families, Children & the Courts

Operations & Programs Division
Judicial Council of California


Kourtney McGrew

Board Member

Astellas Pharma

Executive Hospital Account Manager



Carolyn Russell is the Executive Director of A Safe Place, the leading domestic violence assistance non-profit. As a community leader, an administrator and educator, she has served the public for over 30 years, specializing in non-profit management, fund development and strategic planning.

As Executive Director of A Safe Place since 1984, Ms. Russell has led the growth of the organization from its first beginnings as a phone help line to its present position as the leading agency for domestic violence support in Oakland. Her work has included designing their core Emergency Shelter Program, the innovative Teen Dating Violence Program and the integration of a wide range of community education and outreach initiatives, including Cal Works for victims receiving public assistance. Ms. Russell has led efforts in cultural responsiveness for communities of color with a specific focus on faith in the African American community.


Ms. Russell has created various partnerships on both the city and state level. She developed with Blue Shield of California a two-year project “Faith and Domestic Violence Initiative” to educate faith leaders. She has collaborated with local institutions including Oakland Police Department, leading to the establishment of Oakland’s first domestic violence unit. Other achievements include working with the Alameda County District Attorneys office, local hospitals and other institutions to better serve the victims of domestic violence and their children. The Medical Response project included working with medical personnel at local hospitals to provide training and create protocols for screening domestic violence victims.


Under her leadership, A Safe Place received a state grant to create Alameda County’s first domestic violence medical response team and initiated a collaboration of domestic violence shelters in Alameda County. A long term advocate for battered women and their children, she most recently developed and implemented programs and services for male victims of domestic violence. Ms. Russell has worked with the criminal justice system, advocating for victims of domestic violence and was feature in Crime After Crime, a documentary about a victim of domestic violence incarcerated for 26 years.


Her academic background includes a Masters in Social Work from San Francisco State University and she is currently working on a Masters in Forensic Psychology.


Ms. Russell has served on state and local boards including:

  • Board of Directors for the Statewide Coalition for Battered Women

  • Local FEMA Board of Directors

  • Technical Advisory Committee for State Office of Criminal Justice Planning

  • First Alameda County Family Violence Council – Co-Chair

  • Co-chair of Alameda County Coalition against Domestic Violence.

  • Alameda County Family Court – Steering Committee

  • Oakland Police Department (Women’s Advisory Committee)

  • Domestic Peace Project


Ms. Russell has received various awards for her outstanding work serving victims of domestic violence including:

  • US Senate Proclamation from Congresswoman Barbara Lee

  • Proclamation Alameda County Board of Supervisors Madam C.J. Walker

  • Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame

  • City of Oakland - Women Greatness Award

  • Alameda County Medical Social Workers

  • Chief of Police Award for services to victims of domestic violence  

Want to thank Carolyn for her work?
Donate to A Safe Place!

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