Not Your Mother's Women's Center
For several years after The Women’s Center was launched in 1974, women, many of them military wives, came after a divorce in search of career guidance and help to get their live's back on track. The nonprofit’s mission has evolved to include men and children.
The mental health organization is busy serving 4,000 people a year and looking at ways to help more. The services aren’t limited to a certain income bracket and some pay something based on their ability. (People without insurance or underinsured receive free or subsidized care.) Like many nonprofits, The Women’s Center needs more funds to expand and invest in technology and infrastructure. Executive director Shirley Clark (above) says some funders have changed their giving priorities, which means community-based, non-crisis mental health falls at the low end of the list. The nonprofit, based in Vienna and DC, has so far resisted raising its fees.
The Women’s Center has an annual budget of $3M and is also funded through partnerships with DC and Fairfax County, foundations, individual donors, an annual gala (its biggest fundraiser) and a leadership conference. (The Women's Center received a community impact grant from United Way - National Capital Area earlier this year.) Since its founding, it's expanded beyond its original mission and now helps sexual assault and domestic violence victims and fills in mental health gaps in the community, ranging from depression and anxiety to helping people cope with life's smaller challenges. Its staff of 65 trained therapists has attracted men (15% of its clients) and couples seeking counseling. Any gender and any age are welcome.
All its services are about empowerment and giving people the tools to not only survive, but to thrive, says Shirley. One initiative launching this summer is a five-day camp teaching middle and high school students mental health tools for dealing with stress and building resiliency. A one-day intensive workshop for high schoolers will focus on making good decisions in college. Shirley says mental health and good decision making aren’t discussed enough in families and schools. It’s also beginning programs to serve constituents over 50, who have requested a way to build new connections.