Volunteers Shay, foreground, and Chuck Park work on a mural in the Stagecoach Room.
The warmest, most cheerful space in the new Shasta Family Justice Center in downtown Redding is the Stagecoach Room at the east end of the main hall. So-called because Wells Fargo Bank sponsored it, the room is designed to be a safe and welcoming place for children caught in a family violence crisis. A window in one wall looks into a small adjacent room where parents can meet with a facilitator and still keep an eye on their children.
The room, which is being decorated with toys, furniture, kitchen area and a colorful mural, has become a passion for Tara Bay, a Wells Fargo personal banker and domestic violence survivor.
“I am passionate about this project,” the 27-year-old Redding woman wrote in an e-mail. “When my daughter and I went through domestic violence, I always told myself that there is a reason for this. I will come out of this alive and a stronger person. I will come out with a clarity that will help me help other women in the same position.”
Helping victims of family violence – whether domestic violence, elder abuse, child abuse, or sexual assault – is the driving force behind the new justice center, which celebrates its public grand opening from 12:30 to 6 p.m. today in Suite 300 of the Atrium in the Market Street Promenade, near Leatherby’s.
Similar to family justice centers nationwide, the Shasta Family Justice Center (SFJC) is described as a one-stop help center where family violence victims can get help from multiple agencies, eliminating the need to travel to various offices around town.These agencies include Shasta Women’s Refuge, Legal Services of Northern California, the Inter-Tribal Council of California Inc., the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office, Shasta County Department of Health and Human Services, Redding and Anderson police, Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, and the Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council of Shasta County.
Shasta County was one of six sites – out of 26 – selected by the California Family Justice Initiative to receive $65,000 in grant funding from the Blue Shield Foundation to help set up a center. Officials were impressed with the leadership from District Attorney Jerry Benito and the commitment of the team working on the project, said Jennifer Anderson, assistant project director for the San Diego-based initiative.
“We really felt there had been a longstanding partnership between community agencies,” she said. “That’s core to creating a center.”
Shasta County is the first of the six sites to hold a grand opening and the second to open, Anderson noted. The SFJC is also unique in that it encompasses services for sexual assault and all types of family violence, not just domestic violence, Benito said.
Redding resident Michael Burke, who worked most recently as media and marketing coordinator at Mercy Medical Center in Redding, started in early August as executive director of the center. Funding for his position comes from the one-year Blue Shield grant.
Burke was a staff photographer at the Redding Record Searchlight for 13 years and has also worked as director of the nonprofit PlusONE Mentors program. In 2007, he attended a Victims’ Rights Luncheon put on by the Shasta County District Attorney’s Crime Victims Assistance Center. The keynote speaker – invited by Angela Fitzgerald, project coordinator with the victims center and a key figure in promoting the concept of a local family justice center – was Casey Gwinn, president of the National Family Justice Center Alliance.
“He spoke with such passion about how the community can rally behind these people to break the cycle of violence,” Burke said. “It was very moving.”
The message stayed with him. When Burke saw a job announcement for the SFJC a few years later, he knew he wanted to get involved.
Benito said Burke is well-respected and known by agency leaders. “He has the right mix of temperament and commitment to this effort,” he said. “This is not just a job for him – it’s something he really believes in and wants to make happen for this community. We’re thrilled to have him on board.”
How it works
Burke emphasized that the SFJC is not intended to replace any of the agencies already working with family violence victims. “We’re a house — a place where they can do business,” he said. “The center is trying to consolidate and coordinate services to better attend to the needs of the victims.”
Some of the agencies already have a full-time presence at the center, including the Inter-Tribal Council and Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council. The Crime Victims Assistance Center will have a regular representative there. Those without a center-based worker will have a representative on call as part of a rapid response team that will assemble after a client walks in the door and her or his needs are assessed.
“Having the services co-located provides clients the opportunity to get the services they need all taken care of at one time, whether it’s talking to an advocate from Women’s Refuge, filing a police report, getting a restraining order, going into a shelter, or talking to an eligibility worker about food stamps,” Burke said.
“Their children will be well taken care of in a safe, comfortable environment.”
Lluvia Hetrick is a parent partner for the Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council. She now works out of the new center.
Care will extend beyond the client’s initial visit. “We’ll keep in touch as long as we can,checking in, making sure they are safe,” he said.
Sustaining the center
Benito was candid about the challenges facing the center. “We’re in the middle of a fiscal crisis, with very little money to make this happen,” he said. “The center also takes a lot of different agencies, puts them in the same house and expects them to work well together.”
One of Burke’s main challenges will be finding funding sources to sustain the operation beyond its first year. The center has applied for several grants and also will rely on community donations and fundraisers, the director said.
Numerous businesses and individuals already have stepped forward to offer furnishings, equipment, labor and supplies for the center. Shasta Regional Medical Center, for example, immediately donated $5,000 to sponsor a room.
“I’m amazed at how people have rallied around this,” Burke said. “A lot of things were already in place when I started.”
Today’s open house will give visitors a chance to tour the rooms set aside for various agencies, the two “soft” interview rooms designed to look like living rooms, the pantry where donated clothing, toys and food will be stored, as well as a furnished break room and community meeting room, available for group use.
Furniture in the Lassen Room – one of two interview rooms set up to feel like living rooms – was donated by EMS Home Furnishings.
There are many ways to give to the center. Ten donations of $5,000 would cover the center’s rent for a year, Burke said. The center also has a wish list (see below) of donation items. A “giving tree” mural on a wall in the entryway will be decorated with metal leaves that display the names of donors.
Benito said the generosity and energy of community members helped get the center up and running in six months. “At our first training with the other sites, we were the furthest behind,” he said. “Now we’re at the top. The idea was so appealing to so many in the community that people came out of the woodwork offering to help.”
Family violence in Shasta County
The Aug. 15 stabbing death of a young Bella Vista mother by her boyfriend was a grim reminder of the violence that often goes on behind closed doors. Statistically, only 25 percent of domestic violence gets reported, said Fitzgerald of the Crime Victims Assistance Center.
Though Redding police report a drop in the number of reported domestic violence incidents in the past four years, the three law enforcement agencies in Shasta County average 200 domestic violence-related calls a month, Fitzgerald said. Of those, 80 to 100 arrests are made. “We are helping those people,” she said.
Elder abuse, child abuse and sexual assault are other heartbreaking aspects of family violence that the agencies involved with the center deal with regularly. Wells Fargo’s Bay, who worked with Fitzgerald and the Women’s Refuge when she sought help for her abusive situation, has caught the vision of what the SFJC hopes to do.
“I love that this center is opening,” she said. “It was very discouraging to be bounced around to three or four different places to get the help I needed. Many times it was almost so hard for me emotionally, mentally and physically that I almost said forget it and just stayed where I was.”
Bay said she plans to be part of the center even after the children’s room is completed. “I want to be there and help support these women and children,” she said.
Burke said he is inspired by Bay’s story and what she represents. “She’s the reason we’re doing this,” he said.
Laural Park volunteers her time helping set up the children’s room.
If you go
Today’s grand opening and fundraiser includes a 2 p.m. ribbon-cutting. Radio stations K-Shasta and Oldies 105.3 will broadcast live from the roof of the downtown parking structure. The Redding Fire Department, Shasta County Sheriff’s Department, SHASCOM and the Redding Police Department will provide fun activities for children. Food and beverages will be served.
Spreading the word
As the center opens its doors, it’s important that victims of family violence know it is a resource available to them, Benito said.
“We really need people to support the center by encouraging victims to come,” he said. “I really believe this community is so poised to take advantage of this kind of center.”
The Shasta Family Justice Center is located at 1670 Market St., Suite 300. The phone number is 243-8868. Visit them online at www.facebook.com/ShastaFJC. Director Michael Burke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Candace L. Brown has been a magazine and newspaper journalist since 1992, including eight years at the Redding Record Searchlight, where she reported on public safety, the environment and special projects. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photos by or courtesy of Michael Burke
SHASTA FAMILY JUSTICE CENTER WISH LIST
If you would like to make a donation, please contact Michael Burke at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-524-9014.
Dry cereal or oatmeal
Individual boxes of juice
Individual bottles of water
Individual bags of chips, pretzels, nuts, ramen noodles, and snack mix
Microwavable cups of soup
Individual creams, sugar, sweetener
Grocery store gift certificates
Fast-food gift certificates
Plates, napkins, plastic flatware
TOYS FOR CHILDREN
Dolls & stuffed animals
Trucks and cars
G Rated movies
New sweatpants for children & adults (all
DVD Player and VHS player
Subscriptions to children’s magazines
Subscription to Nickelodeon
Books and movies in Spanish
New sweatshirts for children & adults (all
New T-shirts for children and adults (all sizes)
Gift certificates for clients to buy clothes
SMALLER NEEDS OTHER
Prepaid phone cards
Bus tokens / monthly bus pass
Magazine subscriptions (various languages)
Conference room table and chairs
COMPUTER (IT) NEEDS
12 – Desktop computers with monitors
4 – Laptop computer with docking stations and
1 – Conference room projection set up
Multiple thumb drives
Passes to movies, amusement parks, spas, restaurants
Office supplies: pens, paper, file folders, etc
Diapers, baby wipes, etc
$5,000 for new phone system
1 – Portable computer projector
1 – 27 inch iMac
3 – Network printers
1 – Color copier/printer
1- Flat bed scanner