Annette McDonald: Stand Up to Domestic Violence and Transition to Independence

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Annette McDonald

Our Guest

Annette McDonald made me feel like home when I first spoke with her. I was a complete stranger who desperately needed help. She didn’t owe me anything and could have easily turned me away.

Instead, she was trying to do everything she could to help me and make sure I (and my documentary team) were OK. We bonded immediately.

Upon my return from the documentary, we found ourselves were chatting on the phone for an hour. I found out Annette McDonald founded an organization called Access Family Services in New Jersey that provides shelters and transitioning homes to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

Annette didn’t come from a wealthy background. She’s a single mom. Why would anyone want to pursue a career that has very financial gains for 18 years? I asked her and she said:"Fei, it’s just too important.”

To learn more about Access Family Services, visit:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Learn more:

Show Notes

Part 1

  • [06:00] What’s your origin story?

  • [07:00] We crossed paths in a very surprising and interesting way. Do you think it was by accident?

  • [10:00] What does your organization “Access Family Services” do?

  • [12:00] How do people reach out to you to go to your shelter?

  • [13:00] What and how is your interaction with your clients?

  • [17:00] Why do you think that helping other people gives this long-lasting feeling of fulfillment/satisfaction?

  • [19:00] How did you manage to stay in this for so long? How did this all start?

  • [25:00] How should people look at domestic violence, and what are the different degrees or forms it gets exposed?

Part 2

  • [37:00] How can people identify that there is a power-control dynamic (or ‘red flags’), and how should they go about it?

  • [39:00] How do you manage to get support and knowledge to start this journey in social service?

  • [43:00] How does your family react to your job?

  • [46:00] How was your kids’ transition from young to grown-ups, and how did their opinion change towards your job over time?

  • [50:00] Can you share a bit of your real-estate investments?

  • [52:00] How can people reach out to you and your agencies?

Favorite Quotes

[07:00] Your needs and what I need to do to help you was really my first priority.

[15:00] The look on his face and the excitement of just feeling safe, and being in some place where he has support, that kind of interaction keeps me going. What I felt that night is that I could have work the rest of the night with this family just to watch this little boy go through that sense of gratitude.

[18:00] Service to others is, to me,  one of the greatest gifts that we could give ourselves, as well as giving to others.

[23:00] There is so much more that we can do to help these programs, and I wanted to find out what more could I do. I ended up staying at that program for a very long time and taking a full-time job after volunteering for several months.

[35:00] It hurts that the physical violence at times because the psychological piece never goes away. Feeling that you are walking on eggshells, feeling that any move you make could be the wrong move at any time.

[49:00] I had to do a lot of work as an entrepreneurial thinker with my mindset, to stay positive, to stay focused, despite all odds. I kept my eyes on the prize, and the prize for me was helping families to stay safe. Once I was solid with my vision and my mission, I believe that the universe sent people to me.