DOMESTIC VIOLENCE WAS BELIEVED TO BE SOMETHING THAT HAPPENED ELSEWHERE, PARTICULARLY IN MORE URBAN AREAS.
A group of volunteers formed The Schuylkill County Task Force on Abused Women, later to be called Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC) and then changed to Schuylkill Hope Center for Victims of Domestic Violence (Hope Center). 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 became committed to working together to assist victims of domestic violence and expose its roots in our society, and ultimately end the devastation it inflicts.
The group immediately began the operation of a 24-hour hotline as a means for victims to receive supportive crisis counseling, information and referral services regarding options available to them, and ways 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.
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. Hope Center has continued to rely heavily on its volunteer component through the years to meet ever-growing service demands.
In 1986, the Victim Advocacy Project was initiated in cooperation with the sexual assault center and court-based services began.
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.
In May of 1989, the facility opened as a 14-bed shelter. Within six weeks after opening, the insufficient size of the site became apparent with 22 residents being squeezed into the building. Not only was the site too small, but the quality of services was inherently limited because of the physical limitations of the building. 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 caused natural conflicts which arise from too many people in such a small space. However, because operating expenses had increased so dramatically – nearly doubling with the transition to shelter -the group decided to manage as best it could.
In the fall of 1990, the Church informed then SWiC that they may need the building back as a parsonage. Because the program was now providing nearly 4,000 shelter days to 350 residents per year and the ability to provide these services 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 to the Board of Directors that they purchase an 8,500-square-foot building located in Pottsville. Pottsville being the only city in the county as well as the county seat, provided easy accessibility for the services battered women must utilize to gain safety and independence. Constructed in 1909, the building had been vacant for many years, and although structurally sound, required extensive repairs for its new use. The Board acted upon the recommendation and purchased the building in June 1991.
Children’s services were brought 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.
A capital campaign was immediately planned to pay for renovations and to equip the new site, with a goal of $425,000. The campaign exceeded this goal, raising $481,000, and the agency was amazed at the outpouring of community support to assist victims. The shelter could now house up to 17 women and children in the 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.”
SWiC named Organization of the Year by the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce.
SWiC named Organization of the Year by the Schuylkill County Commission on Women.
SWiC’s Executive Director, Sarah “Sally” Casey, is asked to testify before U.S. Congress on implementation of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
SWiC’s Board President, Mary Diffenderfer, and Executive Director, Sally 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.
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.
Medical Advocacy Project began in cooperation with area health care facilities and rape center.
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 broke for first set of four longer-term housing units.
By 2001, the longer-term housing units were opened and filled to capacity.
Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce awarded Athena Business Woman of the Year to SWiC’s Executive Director, Sally Casey.
SWiC works with the county and secures Grants to Encourage Arrest funding, that strengthens collaborative approach to addressing violence against women.
SWiC began to provide Civil Legal Representation for victims of domestic violence in Protection from Abuse cases.
SWiC won Pottsville Area Development Corporation Business Plan Competition and planned weaving business, The Grateful Thread.
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, safe housing facility.
The second set of four long-term housing facilities was opened and at max capacity soon after.
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.
SWiC conducted a successful $2 million capital campaign to expand shelter services to prevent turning away women and children due to the shelter being at max capacity. The project was completed in 2010, and since then the building has been able to house up to 32 residents at a time.
Due to the deteriorating financial climate of the time, The Grateful Thread had to close its doors.
SWiC’s Executive Director, Sally Casey, was one of 13 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.
The ground was broken for the Shelter Expansion Project.
The Shelter Expansion Project was completed, increasing shelter capacity from 17 residents to 32.
SWiC’s Executive Director, Sally Casey, 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.
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.
One of SWiC’s housing units was named “The Anna Marie Wise Home” as a result of a $106,000 donation by David G. Wise in honor of his mother.
SWiC partners with Penn State Schuylkill to bring Remote Control, an interactive play focusing on dating violence, to the community and area high schools free of charge. Inner Thoughts, vignettes inspired by Remote Control focusing on sexual assault and bullying was another partnership program developed with Penn State Schuylkill.
Increased Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds enables SWiC to offer new services to victims including childcare, life-skills coaching, and increased court advocacy.
SWiC’s President and CEO, Sally Casey, is recognized as one of PPL Corporation’s 25 “Bright Lights” honoring “nonprofit workers that are transforming their communities through the work they do.” Sally was later announced as one of the top 10 grant recipients of the program.
SWiC adds video counseling to its list of comprehensive services.
SWiC adds text hotline to its list of comprehensive services.
Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC) becomes the Schuylkill Hope Center for Victims of Domestic Violence.
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.