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History

Unbelievably, in as late as 1983, no services were available to victims of domestic violence in rural Schuylkill County, PA.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WAS BELIEVED TO BE SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED ELSEWHERE, PARTICULARLY IN MORE URBAN AREAS.

1983

In November of 1983, a group of volunteer individuals formed The Schuylkill County Task Force on Abused Women, later to be called Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC). These individuals had become aware of the prevalence of domestic violence within Schuylkill County having been sensitized to the problem from either their personal or professional experience and were committed to working together to: assist victims of domestic violence; expose its roots in our society; and ultimately end the devastation it inflicts.

The group immediately began operation of its 24-hour hotline as a means for victims to receive supportive crisis counseling, information, and referral regarding options available to them, and a way of addressing their isolation. Hotline volunteers had no idea what they would encounter, while they knew that domestic violence occurred in Schuylkill County, they had no idea how prevalent the problem would prove to be. In its first year of operations, the program received almost 300 incoming hotline calls – a significant number considering the group’s infancy and lack of advertising.

1985

After documenting the need for services, the group was successful in gaining state funding and United Way support in July 1985. Funding from the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence enabled the program to obtain an office and to hire staff. SWiC became a Schuylkill United Way member agency in 1985 and has remained one ever since. SWiC has continued to rely heavily on its volunteer component through the years to meet ever-growing service demands.

1986

In 1986, the Victim Advocacy Project was initiated in cooperation with the sexual assault center and court-based services began.

1988

The group struggled to provide adequate shelter services. In the fall of 1988, the Christ Lutheran Church in Schuylkill Haven (at location of current Jerusalem Lutheran Church), approached SWiC offering the use of their parsonage as a shelter site, enabling the program to initiate shelter services.

1989

In May of 1989, the facility was opened as a 14-bed shelter. Within six weeks are the shelter opening, the insufficient size of the site became apparent, with 22 residents squeezed into the building. Not only was site too small, but the quality of services was inherently limited because of the physical limitations of the building, e.g., five staff people jammed into a 13-ft by 20ft office, lack of privacy for residents and/or staff to discuss personal and confidential matters, inadequate space to accommodate volunteer support, and the natural conflicts which can arise from too many people in too small a space. However, because operating expenses had increased so dramatically, nearly doubling with transition to shelter, the group decided to manage as best it could.

1990

In the fall of 1990, the church informed SWiC that they may again need the building as a parsonage. Because the program was, by now, providing nearly 4,000 shelter days to 350 residents per year, and because the ability to provide this service could literally mean the difference between life and death, a shelter committee was formed to locate a new site.

Within six months, the shelter committee recommended that the Board of Directors purchase an 8,500-square-foot building located in Pottsville, the only city in the county and the county seat, easily accessible to those services battered women must utilize in order to gain safety and independence. Constructed in 1909, the building had been vacant for many years and, although structurally sound, was in need of extensive repair to prepare it for its new use. The Board acted upon the recommendation of the shelter committee and purchased the building in June 1991.

The year 1990 also brought Children’s Services to SWiC. With the availability of a Children’s Advocate, SWiC was able to provide counseling, advocacy, and safety planning to children and youth adversely impacted by domestic violence.

1992

Plans were immediately made for a capital campaign to pay for, renovate, and equip the new site. A campaign goal of $425,000 was established. The campaign was very successful and the agency was amazed at the outpouring of community support to assist victims. The campaign exceeded its goals, raising $481,000. At this time, the shelter could now house up to 17 women and children in the newly renovated facility.

SWiC received the Schuylkill County Women’s Conference Award.

Pottsville Kiwanis honors SWiC “for their hours of service on behalf of victims of domestic violence and for the ability to see beyond what is – to what can be.”

1993

SWiC named Organization of the Year by the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.

1994

SWiC named Organization of the Year by the Schuylkill County Commission on Women.

SWiC’s Executive Director, Sarah Casey, is asked to testify before U.S. Congress on implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

1995

SWiC’s Board President, Mary Diffenderfer, and Executive Director, Sarah Casey, are recognized by the rape center for their efforts on behalf of sexual assault victims.

SWiC spearheads the establishment of the county’s STOP Violence Against Women Team, opening the door for funding to address violence against women.

1996

In 1996, SWiC partnered with the Rape and Victim Assistance Center of Schuylkill County (now Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center) to create the Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women and Children curriculum for prevention education in Schuylkill County Schools. The dynamics of domestic violence and sexual assault were taught to fourth and fifth grade students, their families, and educators through topics like assertiveness, conflict resolution, law enforcement, and safety planning.

SWiC is honored by the county commissioners during Victim’s Rights Week in April.

1997

Medical Advocacy Project began in cooperation with area health care facilities.

2000

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge cited Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women and Children as one of the Best Community Practices in Pennsylvania. SWiC was contacted by former county resident to undertake the annual “Grant Challenge Campaign” and match his $25,000 gift. The challenge was met and surpassed!

In 2000, the ground was broken for first set of four longer-term housing units.

2001

By 2001, the longer-term housing units were opened and filled to capacity.

Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce awarded Business Woman of the Year to SWiC’s Executive Director.

2002

SWiC began to provide Civil Legal Representation for victims of domestic violence in Protection from Abuse cases.

2005

SWiC won Pottsville Area Development Corporation Business Plan Competition and planned weaving business, The Grateful Thread.

2006

SWiC was chosen as one of five programs statewide to participate in the Child Witness to Violence Project, which enhanced services to children. SWiC’s shelter became a video conferencing site for the courts, enabling victims to access the judicial system and obtain emergency Protection From Abuse Orders during times the courthouse is closed. The ground breaking was held for the second, four-unit, longer-term, housing facility.

SWiC won Pottsville Area Development Corporation Business Plan Competition and planned weaving business, The Grateful Thread.

2007

The second, four-unit, longer-term, housing facility was opened and filled to capacity by 2007.

Nominated by the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, SWiC was selected by the National Network to End Domestic Violence as one of top three domestic violence programs in the United States.

The Grateful Thread, a weaving and gift store operating as an environmentally-friendly green business, opened its doors, providing job training opportunities for survivors and also supporting the agency.

2008

SWiC conducted successful $2 million capital campaign to expand shelter services and prevent turning away women and children due to filled capacity. The addition was completed in 2010, the building is now able to house up to 32 residents.

2009

Due to deteriorating financial climate, The Grateful Thread closed its doors.

2010

SWiC’s Executive Director was one of 15 domestic and sexual violence activists across U.S. selected to receive Sunshine Peace Award from philanthropist Doris Buffet. SWiC’s Executive Director was also named Orchid Award Winner by the county’s Business and Professional Women Organization. In 2010, the ground was broken for the Shelter Expansion Project. Which, by 2011, was completed, increasing shelter capacity from 17 to 32.

2014

SWiC’s Executive Director was invited to attend an event for domestic violence advocates across the nation entitled: “A Day to Connect, Heal, Inspire” sponsored by Verizon and When Georgia Smiled: The Robin McGraw Revelation Foundation.

2015

SWiC was awarded funding to establish the Civil Legal Representative Project to provide legal services to survivors in matters related to abuse other than Protection From Abuse Orders.

We recognize that the problem of domestic violence is too big for any one person, agency, or system to address single-handedly. By adopting a community-wide response to domestic violence, we can make great strides in ensuring that the basic unit of our society, the family, is the safe haven we all want it to be.

We are proud of our past accomplishments and are excited by future prospects.