WOMENS CENTER OF JACKSONVILLE: A 25-YEAR HISTORY

The Women’s Resource Network, Inc. established in 1975, served as an umbrella organization and a catalyst in creating some of the most dynamic service organizations in the Jacksonville community.  Projects such as the Rape Crisis Center (1975), Hubbard House shelter for abused women (1976), La Plume de Femme national play writing contest (1986), and the Women’s Center of Jacksonville (1995) all started through the Women’s Resource Network, Inc.

The idea for a resource center for women and their families had been germinating for years in the minds and hearts of many local women. In 1994, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville became a reality as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) community organization, opened its doors in 1995 and officially incorporated in 1999. At that time the Women’s Center of Jacksonville, provided:

  • information and referrals;
  • support groups and individual, group, and family counseling;
  • educational programs which deal with personal, professional, legal, and financial services;
  • support and affirmation in an atmosphere that celebrates uniqueness and diversity;
  • advocacy and collaboration for sexual assault victims; and
  • advocacy to enhance opportunities for social change.
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Shirley Webb was a founding member, and first executive director, of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. Shirley improved the lives of women in the Jacksonville community for over 40 years. In the mid 1970’s Shirley was also a founder and the first Executive Director of Hubbard House, the first shelter in the Southeast to serve victims of domestic violence.

Shirley remained at the helm of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville for 20 years, and during that time, she brought the organization from a one room office in Riverside to a full service resource center, growing from a volunteer staff to a paid staff of 26 and a budget of over $1 million. At the instruction of the WCJ Board of Directors, a separate 501(c)(2) was established in 2002, known as Women’s Center Properties, Inc. (WCP).  The WCP served as a holding company for current and future properties of the WCJ.

Programs and services offered throughout the first 20 years of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville included:

  • An information and referral help line
  • Counseling services based on a sliding scale
  • Personal growth and support groups
  • Community education workshops and seminars
  • Crisis and advocacy response for sexual assault survivors (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • Stop Violence Against Elders program
  • Bosom Buddies, support for women diagnosed with breast cancer, including a Young Survivors Group
  • Expanded Horizons Literacy Program
  • Women Renewed Reentry Program for women ex-offenders, and GIRLS Circles Program for adolescent girls.
  • In October 2014, working closely with a dedicated team of individuals in Jacksonville, Shirley facilitated the Women’s Center of Jacksonville acquiring the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam program, which had previously been run by the City of Jacksonville.

Shirley Webb retired from the Women’s Center of Jacksonville in 2015. A nationwide search for a new executive director brought Teresa Miles into that position.  With thirty years of previous human services experience, working primarily with girls and young women in the foster care system, Teresa was also a certified sexual assault advocate, having spent several years responding to the needs of assault survivors.  Teresa led both National and Statewide organizations by creating programs and services, from community based programs to independent living homes and community schools.  Teresa took the reins of the Women’s Center of Jacksonville on February 18, 2016, working part-time, until April 4, 2016 when she began as the full-time executive director.

The Board of Directors for the Women’s Center of Jacksonville had created a comprehensive succession plan with clear goals for the new executive director – with two primary areas of focus: 1) Bring the Women’s Center of Jacksonville from a well-run grass roots organization to a sustainable long-term resource for NE Florida, 2) Better serve survivors of sexual violence by locating a new facility for the Sexual Assault Forensic Exam center, which was being run from the Victim’s Services Center off 10th Street.

Between 2016 and 2020, Teresa led the efforts to acquire a building, create a capital campaign and move the Women’s Center of Jacksonville forward, in technology and innovation.  Working from the Colcord office, a new phone system was purchased and installed and a new database was created (using Salesforce) to maintain accurate data on all staff and donors. An expansion of staff to accommodate the growing needs for technology, quality management and services began in 2017.  On February 14, 2017 a building at 5300 Emerson Street was purchased for the new SAFE Center.  Renovations began on October 10, 2017 and the Women’s Center’s Rape Recovery Team moved into the Center on May 19, 2018, to begin providing forensic exams in a healing, trauma-informed environment.

On February 16, 2021, the Women’s Center of Jacksonville launched a new look and a new mission:

The Women’s Center of Jacksonville improves the lives of women through advocacy, support and education and provides rape recovery services for individuals of all genders.

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