Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC)


Our Mission Statement

The mission of Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC) is to offer help, hope, and healing for those impacted by intimate partner violence or sexual abuse through crisis intervention, shelter, education, and advocacy for social change.



HERSTORY OF SCHUYLKILL WOMEN IN CRISIS

Unbelievably, in as late as 1983, no services were available to victims of domestic violence in rural Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. Domestic violence was popularly believed to be something that happened somewhere else, peculiar to more urban areas.

In November 1983 a group of individuals who had become aware of the prevalence of domestic violence within Schuylkill County formed the Schuylkill County Task Force on Abused Women, later to be called Schuylkill Women in Crisis (SWiC). These individuals had been sensitized to the problem from either their personal or professional experience and were committed to working together to assist victims of domestic violence, to expose its roots in our society, and ultimately to 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, for 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. This funding enabled the program to obtain an office and hire staff. SWiC has continued to rely heavily on its volunteer component through the years to meet ever-growing service demands.

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 1989, the facility was opened as a 14-bed shelter.

Within six weeks after shelter opening, the insufficient size of the site became apparent, with 22 residents literally 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, e.g., five staff people jammed into a 13-foot by 20-foot 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.

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/year to almost 350 residents/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.

Plans were immediately made for a 1992 capital campaign to pay for, renovate, and equip the new site. A campaign goal of $425,000 was established. The campaign was very successful with even the agency amazed at the outpouring of community support to assist victims of domestic violence. The campaign exceeded its goals, raising $481,000. After a second successful capital campaign in 2008 and a $2 million expansion and addition completed in 2010, the building is able to house up to 32 residents.

Today, with community support, SWiC’s comprehensive services include 24-hour hotline; information and referral; accompaniment to courts and hospitals; empowerment and trauma-informed counseling; lethality assessment and safety planning; emergency shelter; transitional housing; assistance filing emergency Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders via videoconferencing; individual and systems advocacy; relocation assistance; limited food and transportation assistance; children’s counseling; volunteer training; and community awareness/ prevention activities and in-service training for other service professionals. All services are free and confidential, with the exception of transitional housing, which charges rent on a sliding scale fee.

SWiC presently provides services to 1,200 victims annually; answers 1,400 hotline calls; provides more than 6,000 hours of counseling to victims and their families; and provides more than 6,000 shelter days and more than 2,000 transitional housing days.

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

OUR GROWTH AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS



1983 – SWiC founded by community volunteers. Hotline services initiated.
1985 – SWiC secured funding from the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence enabling it to hire staff and establish offices. Became member agency of Schuylkill United Way.
1986 – Victim Advocacy Project initiated in cooperation with the sexual assault center and court based services begin.
1989 – Shelter services established.
1990 – Children’s services began.
1992 – SWiC conducted successful $.5 million campaign for expanded shelter.
1992 – Shelter move and expansion. Agency now able to house up to 17 women and children in newly renovated facility.
1992 – Pottsville Kiwanis honored 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.”
1992 – SWiC received the Schuylkill County Women’s Conference Award.
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.
1994 – SWiC’s Executive Director, Sarah Casey, is asked to testify before U.S. Congress on implementation of the Violence Against Women Act.
1995 – SWiC spearheaded the establishment of the county’s STOP Violence Against Women Team opening the door for funding to address violence against women.
1996Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women and Children Campaign for prevention education in the schools began in collaboration with the sexual assault center.
1996 – SWiC honored by county commissioners during Victims’ Rights Week in April.
1997 – Medical Advocacy Project began in cooperation with area health care facilities.
2000 – Transitional housing project ground breaking.
2000 – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge cited Zero Tolerance of Violence Against Women and Children as one of the Best Community Practices in Pennsylvania.
2000 – SWiC contacted by former county resident to undertake annual “Grant Challenge Campaign” and match his $25,000 gift. Challenge was met and surpassed.
2001 – First four-unit transitional housing project opened and filled to capacity.
2001 – 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 chosen as one of five programs statewide to participate in the Child Witness to Violence Project, which enhanced services to children.
2006 – SWiC broke ground on second four-unit transitional housing facility.
2006 -- 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.
2007The Grateful Thread, a weaving and gift store operating as an environmentally-friendly green business, opened its doors, providing job training opportunities for clients and also supporting the agency.
2007 – Second transitional housing project opened and filled to capacity.
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.
2008 – SWiC conducted successful $2 million capital campaign to expand shelter services to prevent turning away women and children due to filled capacity.
2009 – Due to deteriorating financial climate, The Grateful Thread closed its doors.
2010 – Groundbreaking for expanded shelter.
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.
2010 – SWiC’s Executive Director named Orchid Award Winner by the county’s Business and Professional Women Organization.
2011 – Shelter Expansion Project completed, increasing shelter capacity from 17 to 32.
2014 – SWiC’s Executive Director invited to attend event for domestic violence advocates across the nation, “A Day to Connect, Heal, Inspire” sponsored by Verizon and the When Georgia Smiled: The Robin McGraw Revelation Foundation.
2015 – SWiC awarded funding to establish the Civil Legal Representative Project to provide legal services to survivors in matters related to abuse other than Protective From Abuse Orders.


2016-2017 BOARD OF DIRECTORS


Ann Marie Barket
Valerie Clay (President)
Jeanne B. Elberfeld (Vice President)
B.J. Folk
Katy Heckman (Secretary)
The Rev. Kim L. Lengert, Esq.
David O’Leary
Jackie Pellish (Treasurer)
Jill Schade
Brenda Schoeneman
Rhonda Thompson
Cynthia Urzillo

ADVISORY BOARD


Mary Diffenderfer, Honorary
Richard Higgins, Honorary
Joseph Schlitzer, Honorary
Jim Brennan
Paul Datte, Esq.
Raymond C. Dee
Mantura Gallagher
Commissioner George F. Halcovage
Joseph H. Jones, Jr., Esq.
Dr. Anita Kozlowski
Jule Quandel
Noble C. Quandel
Shirley Ravitz
Barbara McLaughlin Weiss
Richard Weiss
Wendi Wheeler, Esq., Chair




View SWiC's 2015 Audit