Women's shelter celebrates opening

October 29, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Jefferson County officials on Wednesday celebrated the opening of a counseling center they wish was not needed.

"It's too bad there's a need, but thank God the need is being filled," said Jefferson County Commissioner James Ruland.

The Shenandoah Women's Center held an open house for its office at 110 N. Lawrence St. in Charles Town. The center provides counseling for victims of rape and domestic violence.

"It's a shame we have domestic violence, but we need a place for people to go and feel safe here in Jefferson County. The closer any service is, the better it is for those in need," said Mary Via, executive director of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce.


The Jefferson County office opened at its new location in January after being housed for six years in the basement of Asbury United Methodist Church, said Ann Smith, executive director of the Shenandoah Women's Center.

Due to a hole in the front porch, center officials held off on a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house until repairs were made, Smith said.

Volunteers built a new porch, painted, made curtains, planted flowers and grass seed, put topsoil in the back yard and built a wooden fence in September, Smith said.

The back yard will provide a place for children to play while their mothers receive counseling and assistance, Smith said. There also is a storage building in the back where the center keeps a supply of clothing for abuse victims, she said.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an appropriate time to draw more attention to the counseling center, Smith said.

This is also the Shenandoah Women's Center's 20th year, Smith said.

The group was started by concerned residents in 1977 who wanted to do something to help abuse victims. They started with a hotline and in 1979 started some counseling programs and a shelter.

Now the Shenandoah Women's Center has a main office in Martinsburg at 217 W. Martin St., an office in Berkeley Springs, W.Va., in the Home Health building next to War Memorial Hospital, the Charles Town office and one for counseling by appointment at the Entler Hotel in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Smith said.

The center recently started a program in which volunteers respond with Martinsburg City Police officers to domestic violence calls and provide immediate counseling to the victims, Smith said. The center is working with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department to start a similar program, she said.

The volunteers also talk with police officers about domestic violence so they can find ways to help make it easier for the police to work with victims, she said.

"My hope is we can bring that to Jefferson County," Smith said.

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