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The Women’s Center turns 40 

 
Southern Illinoisan
November 3, 2012
By D.W. Norris

CARBONDALE — What began as social club has been transformed over four decades into a safe haven for women and children who have been abused.

The Women’s Center turned 40 on Friday, and some of its founding members gathered in celebration with Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon, Carbondale Mayor Joel Fritzler, representatives of the shelter and community members. A ceremony at The Women’s Center also served as a ribbon cutting for a tribute garden honoring the center’s founders while raising funds for the center’s various programs.

Sandra Ursini, the center’s development specialist, said brick and bench sales for the tribute garden brought in $17,380.

“It shows the community is committed to The Women’s Center and what we do here.”

A change in focus

The Women’s Center got its start as an opportunity for women to gather for discussion.

“It was soon that we saw that our main function was going to be helping women in trouble, and you can’t do them (group talks and providing aid) in the same place,” founding member Clara McClure said.

Founder Bobbi Majika traveled from New York to be a part of Friday’s ceremony. She said much has changed from the days when founders went door-to-door trying to raise money to pay rent on a small house that served as the center’s first shelter, but some things remain the same.

“For me, it’s still about shared vision in that what was a great idea 40 years ago has just grown into this — the ability to provide services to even more women, to reach out across counties,” Majika said.

Funding still an issue

Simon, a former board member, said The Women’s Center should have a reliable funding source for its rape crisis center after the state legislature passed a bill requiring strip clubs to pay fees to the state for rape prevention.

“I think we’ve got a small improvement there, but looking ahead to next year’s budget, resources are going to be more scarce because there is a bigger pinch on the budget every year with rapidly increasing costs of health care and pensions,” Simon said. “We have a lot to do, and it’s important to get the community together to sort of remind ourselves how important The Women’s Center is to us.”

Carbondale City Councilwoman Jane Adams and Jackson County Board member Paulette Curkin also attended Friday’s ceremony, as did members of the tribute garden’s fundraising board.

“Without volunteers and fundraisers, we couldn’t have done it,” said Abby Odior, shelter coordinator for domestic violence.

In addition to McClure and Majika, Rita Moss, Lillian Adams, Genevieve Houghton, Libby Moore, Judy Criswell and Candy Dean founded The Women’s Center.

“We will continue to do the work our founders started until domestic violence no longer exists,” said Cathy McClanahan, executive director of the center.

Houghton’s brother, Michael Hughes, made a $5,000 donation to The Women’s Center, volunteer Joyce Webb said.

Needed services

Fritzler on Friday echoed an earlier statement from McClanahan when he said, “It’s unfortunate that these services are needed, but we’re very fortunate to have The Women’s Center here to provide these services, not only to Carbondale residents, but to all of Southern Illinois.”

The Women’s Center has a 40-bed shelter for women and children, domestic violence and rape crisis counseling for women, children and men, medical and legal advocacy and 24-hour hotlines and crisis intervention services. All services are free and confidential.

The Women’s Center serves Jackson, Franklin, Johnson, Perry, Saline, Williamson and Union counties. It has counseling and advocacy services at its Marion office and legal advocacy in Benton.

The Women’s Center has provided almost 6,000 nights of domestic violence shelter and more than 16,000 meals in the last year. It has also fielded 11,292 crises hotline calls and assisted with 606 orders of protection, among other services.

For more information on The Women’s Center or to purchase tribute garden bricks, call Ursini at 618-549-4807 ext. 228 or email wcds@thewomensctr.org.