• Tuesday, October 11, 2011

  • Updated Tuesday, October 11, 2011 11:19 pm

Big scissors and a wide red ribbon were used to help celebrate the opening of the Family Justice Center in Georgetown.
While the center has been operating for a while, Thursday’s event helped bring community members, local officials and members of the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce together for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The facility helps victims of domestic violence and brings together representatives of various agencies in one place.
Georgetown Mayor Jack Scoville wielded the scissors. Carol Winans, a sort of “godmother” for the facility, held one end of the ribbon while board chairman Alicia Barnes held the other.
“I’m very excited,” Winans told the Georgetown Times. The renovated facility took hundreds and hundreds of hours and plenty of sweat equity to make it ready.
In fact, a staff member at the Family Justice Center was helping a client out on the sidewalk as the festivities got underway.
Sheriff Lane Cribb said when the first meeting was held to organize what has become an operational facility, he happened to have five other sheriffs from around the state with him in Georgetown County.
“They all listened to Carol [Winans] and Ms. [Gillian] Roy. They said ‘I don’t know if we would be able to do this or not’,” Cribb said.
Now that the center is a reality, “It’s all in one stop, instead of [victims] having to go here, there, and all over the place.”
“I’m really proud of the people that made this happen.”
The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in conjunction with the Georgetown County Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours. International Paper Co. was the main sponsor of the event.

Significance of opening


Solicitor Greg Hembree of the 15th Circuit said “It is the model that has a track record of success in providing services to families.”
The Family Justice Center deals with the issues surrounding domestic violence. It offers a consistent process to break the cycle of violence, Hembree said.
That problem is “chronic, and inter-generational, unless you change the dynamic of that family relationship.”
If not, he continued, children will grow up and become victims or abusers themselves.
This place helps families deal not just with the criminal justice system, “but helps the person to be a success — healthcare, job, and taking a look at the situation.”
With the normal system, a person has to go from one agency to another and tell the story repeatedly.
“They lose patience, give up, and go back to the abuser. It’s too demeaning.
“In too many government offices, people just feel like a number,” Hembree said.
This system doesn’t work overnight, but it works. “It takes time, and a commitment.”
Hembree said the community and the various partners have embraced the concept of the Family Justice Center. They’re committed for the long haul, and the center is the place to go to address these issues.
“It’s hard to measure success in an effort like this,” he acknowledged.
“If they go on with their lives, extricate themselves from a toxic situation and they are successful,” that’s good.

Exciting

Carol Winans and her husband Garvey Winans were among the first people working towards the Safe Family Initiative, which has “morphed” into the Family Justice Center.
“Tonight is exciting,” Winans said.
“People in Georgetown have really helped us.
“I’ve felt all along that people know what we’re doing is fated, and they want to help the victims of abuse. And not just the adults, but the children, too,” she said.
A recent statistic about education brings the problem to the forefront. One-third of kids who drop out of school come from abusive homes, Winans said. She’s talked with school administration people.
“The number of kids who need extra help because they’re living in violent situations at home is a very big problem.”

***

The Family Justice Center of Georgetown County is located at 1530 Highmarket Street, Georgetown, SC 29440. Phone: (843) 546-3926.
Visit the Web site at:
www.fjcgeorgetown.org.
For more information on the Family Justice Center concept and model go to:
www.familyjusticecenter.org.

By Tommy Howard
thoward@gtowntimes.com

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