'Irreplaceable' Darien Depot leader Janice Marzano to retire after two decades

DARIEN — After some two decades of serving and supporting the community’s young people, Janice Marzano, program director at the Depot Youth Center, will soon be taking some time for herself.

Marzano has been a beloved local fixture for more than 33 years in Darien, having started work as the kitchen manager at Tokeneke School around 1987. She later transferred to Holmes School, thus getting to know kids from both sides of town before assuming her role with The Depot.

“I think it’s just time,” she said, growing teary as she announced her impending retirement Tuesday. “I’m blessed. I’m lucky to have been here and shared so many families’ lives with them. I love, love my job. Every day I can lay my head on the pillow and I know that I’ve helped somebody.”

While she does not have a date — nor know when a replacement will be found — she said it would be by the end of this year.

Marzano, 67, shared how, not only did so many of the children she knew through the elementary schools ultimately become regulars at the Depot, but in recent years she has even gotten the chance to work with some of their children.

“I’ve been around,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve been here a really long time and have been through so many families.”

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said most know the Depot is a place that hosts middle school parties and band nights, has a strong student governing board, and the home of Safe Rides and generally a place for kids to hang out in a safe and judgment-free space — but Marzano made it so much more.

“What I love most about Janice is that she always looked out for and supported the kids who were at risk … at risk of falling through the cracks … at risk of losing themselves to substance misuse or unhealthy relationships … at risk because of difficult home lives,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said Marzano has “loved all the Depot kids throughout the years, but she is and was so important in the lives of the kids who needed her most.”

“Personally, I will be forever in her debt for the love and care she gave to my kids, too,” Stevenson added. “I know the Depot Youth Center will survive and thrive, but Janice is irreplaceable and will be missed.”

Born in Stamford, Marzano is the mother of two sons who are also familiar faces in the area. Joe Marzano is the sports director at the Darien YMCA and freshman basketball coach at Darien High School. Matthew Marzano is a police officer in New Canaan.

She also has four granddaughters collectively between them, including Blake, Kenley, Madison, and Miley Shea.

Asked what helped her have the impact she has had on the many children she’s known through the Depot, Marzano frankly explained that she herself was a challenging and rebellious youngster who made a number of mistakes in her time.

“I think all of that helped me,” she said, in sympathizing and empathizing with teens that were experiencing their own challenges — as well as identifying those who were in need of support.

“You can pick out kids that just need somebody to listen to them,” Marzano said. “There are no bad kids, only kids that make bad decisions, and as long as there’s someone there to listen to them, that’s okay.”

Consequently, she said, under her watch the Depot has strived to be a safe place where everyone is welcome and accepted.

“You’re not allowed to judge anybody in this building,” she said. “We don’t do that here. There’s no judgment. Everybody gets a second chance, or a third chance.”

“And you learn from your mistakes,” she said, and hopefully don’t have to make them again.

“Janice’s faith in the ability of the kids at the Depot is unwavering,” Jennifer Tarleton, co-chair of its board, said. “She is always telling us to let the kids do it or let the kids decide.”

She shared how at a recent meeting with the teen leaders, when Tarleton tried to intercede with advice, Marzano shushed her over and over again until it became comical.

“She must have done it seven or eight times during the conversation … but by the end the kids did succeed in solving the issues, all on their own,” Tarleton said, “and as usual Janice was right.”

“It can’t be overstated how much she educates, supports and guides us as parents behind the scenes at every turn,” longtime board member Julianna Spain said.

She praised her “wicked” sense of humor in working with everyone, and also highlighted how her own experiences serve to help guide everyone associated with her at the Depot.

“Janice is clearly beloved and respected,” Spain said, “but it’s her passion and compassion for what our kids go through on their journey through young adulthood that captivates and compels her to make our corner of the world a better place for our kids.”

She shared how Marzano — observing how Spain’s daughter was hesitant to share openly in a group situation in which Spain was in attendance — asked her to leave it so the girl would be more comfortable.

“Janice and I have always joked that she kicked me out, but that is exactly why Janice made the Depot what it is today,” Spain said.

Likewise, Marzano will leave with a sincere adoration for her job and many of the people she has known.

As for the future, Marzano is going to take some time off before deciding what the next chapter might entail.

“I want to relax a little bit and enjoy my grandchildren,” she said. “I have my own tree at Weed Beach. I’d like to sit under that for little bit.”