PARKERSBURG - After 19 years of service as administrative director for the Family Crisis Intervention Center, Judi Ball announced she is retiring.
"This really has been a calling for me," Ball said of her job. She served on the board of directors for the center before taking on her role as administrative director. When she began her duties, the domestic violence shelter was at its former location on Seventh Street. "I have really enjoyed the challenge and the support I received over the years from the entire community. It really takes everybody working together to address this issue and I hope for the future that will be carried on," she said.
"When I started, I was only supposed to be there for six months, 19 years later I was still there. When I started, the budget was $153,000 a year; now it's around $700,000. We covered eight counties but only had offices in Wood County back then because we didn't have the staff. We had six staffers, now there are 20," Ball said. "Our first presence in another county was in Calhoun County. That county was chosen as one of five pilot project programs there."
Photo by Pamela Brust
Judi Ball said she’s taking retirement after 19 years at the helm of the Family Crisis and Intervention Center as administrative director.
Roane County followed with the first advocate who started as a VISTA volunteer.
"Those original advocates are still there and are doing a wonderful job," Ball said.
One of the frustrations Ball said over the years was funding, which came and went, the shelter relies on grants and contributions.
"We received TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds for awhile which allowed us to hire Family Violence Option Advocates, we hired eight people, and that allowed us to have an office in every county. However, the TANF funding only lasted three years and we had to lay some people off. We have closed the Wirt and Pleasants county offices. In Tyler County we have an agreement with the prosecutor's advocate to provide services and that has worked out very well. In Jackson County, we hired a full-time person," she said.
Money has been up and down and was one of the biggest frustrations Ball said she faced in her job. "It was a constant struggle to keep the place funded."
"The challenge was how to provide meaningful services to victims that are responsive and meet their needs. That sounds easy to do, but it really isn't," Ball said.
Ball said she felt making state contacts was a key.
"I made an effort to go around the state making friends, I joined committees at the state level. I did that because I realized early on if you don't have contacts at the state level, you are just going to be another program and you are not going to get anything. I was involved with the state coalition in a number of leadership positions. I realized it's important to have partners. I hired people who believed it was a calling for them, that's certainly the ways it's always been for me, and they grew into their jobs. It's been very rewarding to see their confidence grow and make wonderful service providers," Ball said.
As for the victims, Ball said it was difficult at first to track numbers of victims served.
"We didn't have a database when I started so you just tried to count, one of our employees invented a database we could use and we were then able to have numbers of those we served. The laws have changed over the years as well and there is currently a three-year pilot project in Kanawha County that is looking at different ways to help families in relation to domestic violence," Ball said.
Ball said domestic violence is still a taboo subject in some circles, but awareness has improved over the years she's been involved with the shelter.
"Some of our biggest support in the community has come from the faith community. When we moved from the old shelter to the new one, the first ones to step up to help us were the churches," she said. "The county commissioners back then believed in our program enough to give us that property."
Ball has seen and heard many stories over the years. She said the biggest problem now is in addition to domestic violence, many of the victims have chronic mental illness and chronic drug/alcohol problems.
"Our staff is not trained to handle those problems, we refer out but there just are not enough case manager, not enough beds in facilities, and sometimes the women end up in the streets or go back to their abusers. It's a constant challenge and sometimes it's disheartening," she said.
What has kept her motivated over the years?
"When there were problems over the years, the staff would come together and try to figure it out," Ball said.
Ball said she's looking forward to the future including having the time to begin a new social service project she's wanting to become involved with for several years.
FCIC board President Delmas Barker said Personnel Director Sharon Lynch has been named interim director for the nonprofit center. Barker said the board hopes to have someone in the director's job by the first of August.
The Family Crisis Intervention Center program provides shelter, legal advocacy, referral, public education, direct services, a haven, and programs related to the issues of domestic and sexual violence. Direct services provided to persons who are experiencing domestic and sexual violence include the shelter, 24-hour hotline, counseling, legal advocacy, parenting education, transitional housing and an eight-county outreach program
The FCIC registered 2,628 client contacts in 2009-2010 and in 2010-2011 there were 2,939 contacts. According to the shelter's annual report, there were 566 domestic violence petitions filed in 2009-2010 and 664 in 2010-2011.