Tammy de la Cruz, President
Tammy de la Cruz is the President and together with her husband, Joe, is a founder of Community Speaks Out, Inc. She is responsible for day to day operations and is committed to being part of the solution to the addiction crisis that has afflicted our community. An expert in the field of compassion and loyalty to her community, Tammy has created a platform for and given a voice to all those impacted by this disease of addiction. Her experience working in the fields of mental health and healthcare has given her a deep understanding of the need to embrace and support families in this fight. Tammy is a lifelong Groton resident and a mother of two. She has served on the Poquonnock Bridge fire commission and the PTO for her children’s school. Tammy’s passion runs deep as her family has been directly affected by this disease.
Melissa Ford, Vice President
Melissa Ford is a Medical Social Worker who works with issues that affect our local community. Melissa believes that anyone can make positive changes in their lives and there is no such thing as failure, just feedback. Melissa has worked as a medical social worker for over 10 years, volunteered as a delivery coach for incarcerated women and assisted with 100 births. She has worked in diverse settings including hotlines, emergency rooms, hospitals, prisons, mental health and acute residential facilities. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Connecticut State University. She considers her most important work assisting persons with addiction and mental illness, and is passionate that recovery is possible and everyone deserves a second change.
Linda Labbe, Secretary
Linda Labbe is a well-respected real estate agent and a cofounder and the Secretary of Community Speaks Out, Inc. A behind-the-scenes workhorse, she is an active member of many volunteer groups and possesses strong leadership skills that prompt others to look to her for advice. Linda is dedicated to helping others, particularly in fighting this disease that has affected her family. She has made it a top priority to educate herself and others on the dangers of addiction. Linda is mother of two and a Baltic native, residing with her husband in the home she was raised in.
Mary Riley, Treasurer
Lisa Cote Johns
Lisa Cote Johns is the driving force behind Community Speaks Out, Inc. With an educational background in business management, she is a cofounder and previously served as the Treasurer of the organization, and has experience in fundraising and budgeting, including managing and coordinating a multi-million dollar grant for arts and education. Lisa is a native New Londoner and resident of Uncasville. She worked for 18 years at the ISAAC Middle School with students as a teacher’s assistant and a committed role model for her students. Lisa’s passion is driven by the death of her beloved son, Christopher, who lost his battle to his disease of addiction. She has made it her mission to help families and their loved ones who are battling and is working toward preventing others from having to suffer a loss like hers.
Joe de la Cruz
Joe de la Cruz is the CT 41st District State Representative and together with his wife, Tammy, is a founder of Community Speaks Out, Inc. A consummate leader, Joe previously served his community on the Groton Town Council and the Groton RTM (Representative Town Meeting). He has always been passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of young people and has coached youth sports including baseball, basketball, and wrestling. Joe is the general manager of Hillery Company Custom Metal Fabrication, and has worked for the Local 40 Sheet Metal Workers Union since 1997. Never one to throw in the towel, when addiction struck his family, he did only what he knew how to do: speak up about the disease so his family and others would not be alone in their fight. Joe is a native New Londoner and has resided in Groton for 20 years where he and Tammy raised their two children.
Christa Beauchamp works for BioClinica in clinical trial support, and at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital as a mental health clinician. Christa is an administrator for the organization 'Shine a Light on Heroin,' and on the Board of Directors for 'Community Speaks Out.' Both organizations seek to raise awareness and increase services for mental health and substance abuse treatment, and this is Christa's passion. Christa is often called upon to write Op-Ed pieces for ‘The Westerly Sun’ and ‘The New London Day’ regarding these issues, two such pieces entitled ‘Leaving Addicts to Fend for Themselves,’ and ‘Get Serious about Heroin Addiction Treatment.’
Cheryl Biekert, a lifelong resident of New London County, currently resides in North Stonington, CT. Cheryl has a 6th Year Certificate of Advanced Studies in Educational Leadership, a Master of Arts in Teaching from Sacred Heart University and a Bachelor of Arts in Education from University of St. Joseph. Cheryl holds triple certification with the Connecticut State Department of Education in Administration & Supervision, Comprehensive Special Education, and Elementary Education.
Cheryl currently serves as Director of Pupil Services for Lebanon Public Schools. She was the director of WAVES Alternative High School Program, which was housed at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, she has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, for Groton, Ledyard, and North Stonington Public Schools, as well as serving as a learning specialist and resident director at Mitchell College in New London, CT. In addition to this, Cheryl has fulfilled the role of a grief facilitator for The Cover Center for Grieving Children in Stonington.
Cheryl’s journey to becoming a board member of Community Speaks Out involves her son, Matthew, who is in long term recovery. After seeking treatment in Connecticut, it became apparent that Matthew would need to obtain treatment out of state where there was a continuum of services available to him. Matthew remained in treatment for six months and continues to reside in Utah, where he is currently employed as an Outreach Specialist for Acqua Recovery. His story is testament that appropriate long-term treatment can result in long term recovery!
Cheryl’s passion for education, teaching, and learning and her believe that every individual can reach his/her full potential when given the supports he/she needs, lends itself to addiction prevention. She has strong convictions in the belief that education is one of the keys to preventing addiction.
Elizabeth Duarte is a retired social worker supervisor with Department of Children and Families. She worked with parents and children who struggled with addiction. In the 31 years working for the State of CT, Elizabeth has seen the services for those affected by addiction grow and improve. However, she knows first hand that grassroots organizations with volunteers in the community is the best way to reach those in need. Elizabeth grew up in Groton and since being married to her husband Paul, has lived in the City of Groton and been actively involved in the community.
Carolyn Wilson is a health program coordinator with Ledge Light Health District and is the Coordinator for the Groton Adolescent Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition and a Master Tobacco Treatment Specialist. Carolyn has an educational background in public health with a concentration in behavioral science, health promotion and health education. She currently resides in New London and was a longtime Groton resident. Carolyn is passionate about mental health promotion and substance abuse prevention , and believes everyone has the power to make positive life changes and to enjoy a healthy and substance-free life. Carolyn also serves on the Board of Directors at Fiddleheads Natural Foods Cooperative.