PARKERSBURG - Emily Larkins, who has 13 years of experience at the Family Crisis Intervention Center has been named the center's new executive director.
"I want to help people make a difference in their lives. It's a new challenge everyday here," Larkins said. "I'm very excited about this new opportunity, and I look forward to working with our board of directors and staff and keeping our community aware that domestic violence can affect anybody. We'll see what the future brings. I'm ready for any challenge."
The nonprofit center provides a 24-hour victim hotline, shelter, legal advocacy, information and referral for mental health and other services, case management, Kids First visitation center, parenting education, speakers bureau, helping victims get back on their feet and start new lives.
Emily Larkins is the new executive director at the Family Crisis Intervention Center. The Parkersburg nonprofit organization serves eight counties, providing shelter, parenting education, legal advocacy, referral, outreach, speakers, a Kids First family visitation center and 24-hour hotline. (Photo by Pamela Brust)
In 2011-2012, the center served 3,195. In 2010-2011 that number was 2,939.
Larkins replaces Judi Ball who earlier announced her retirement after 19 years as director. Larkins was the case manager and direct services manager. She was hired after serving a social services internship at the local shelter through West Virginia University at Parkersburg.
"I was here for two semesters and I really enjoyed it. I think it became a passion of mine somehow. I liked the people I worked with, the clients, what the program stood for, our mission. There happened to be some additional funding available at that time, so I was hired after my internship," Larkins said.
Working with domestic violence victims is stressful, but Larkins said she's stayed on board because of the success stories.
"That's what keeps me going. Statistics say now it takes a victim 5-7 times leaving before they will leave the relationship for good. It's never the same here. Each case is different, and everyday is a challenge. I want to help people," she said. When she came to the shelter, Larkins had no experience with domestic violence so everyday is a new learning experience for her.
"I knew nothing about it. I was blessed not to have been exposed to domestic violence growing up and so this was a whole new world to me. It's really opened my eyes as to what can happen in our community," Larkins said.
The shelter has been at capacity for the past several months. Larkins attributed the numbers partially to the economy, but noted traditionally the shelter seems to be busier during summer months.
"We have been very busy. I'm seeing that we are also having to house victims longer. Finding longer term safe, affordable housing is such an issue. The victims are dealing with so many issues, mental health, substance abuse, finding employment that is sustainable for their families," Larkins said. The majority of the victims who come to the shelter have children with them. The shelter serves male and female victims, but Larkins said typically most of the victims they see are women.
"Men, many times tend to seek alternate housing arrangements for themselves, staying at hotels, friends, family. It's not that there aren't any male victims," she said.
The shelter is licensed to house 15.
"Domestic violence is a cycle and we'd like to be more in the schools, talking about dating relationships, healthy and unhealthy relationships, but funding has been cut so we aren't able to go in as much as we wanted with our speakers. Teachers still do have access to program materials and we still offer the speaker's bureau on domestic violence issues for groups and organizations," Larkins said.
For the future, the new director said she's hoping within the next month or two to once again offer a victim support group for shelter residents and non-residents. A previous group had to be canceled due to staffing cuts. The biggest challenge for the center continues to be funding and how to continue to affectively serve victims, she said.
"This is something that changes everyday, to be able to affectively really help these victims safely, we have to consistently and continually be thinking outside the box and be willing to learn, with the laws that are changing," Larkins said.
"Funding is always an issue. We are trying to be pro-active and so some fundraising, finding one or two bigger annual fundraisers to fill in the funding gaps," Larkins said. The shelter relies on funding from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, Victims of Crime Act and Violence Against Women's Act grants as well some funding from local foundations and contributions. She said the center hopes to continue a memorial breakfast in the spring, the first one was this year and a summertime Safe Haven pageant which raised about $1,460 for the center, also a first this year. There is also an ongoing 250-club drawing, which they hope will net about $4,000.