In operation for 35 years, The Cathy Mabry Cloninger Center celebrates the many changes that have helped to mold our history. The first shelter opened on April 4, 1982 after a group of concerned citizens mobilized to create a refuge for battered women and their children here in Gaston County. The facility was called the Battered Spouse Shelter. For thirteen years, domestic violence victims used our services. It became apparent in the early 1990’s that the facility needed extra bed space and was not handicap accessible. Many residents used this two-story, three bedroom, one bath house and found support through the Social Worker and Relief Shelter Operators.
In 1995, we were able to construct and move into a new 4,013 square feet facility built in a confidential location. This project was made possible through the gracious support of the Gaston County Board of Commissioners, by which Gaston County contributed $150,000 and other generous Shelter donors who helped The Shelter raise another $150,000. With this move to a new location, our name was then changed to The Shelter of Gaston County, a Battered Women’s Residence and Resource Center. During these years, our staff continued to slowly grow, and delivery of more specific services began.
In 2011, construction began and was completed in 2012 with the renovation of the existing shelter and the expansion, which is comprised of two client bedrooms, a teen playroom, a support/meeting room, additional office space for increased staff, a client bathroom, a laundry room, and a staff bedroom. With the updated changes, we have been able to improve the safety, accessibility, and functionality of our new facility. Now with this addition, The Cathy Mabry Cloninger Center has 5,700 square feet of trauma-sensitive environment for our residents, with safe sanctuaries where they can begin their healing process from all that they have endured.
Through a capital campaign with so many special friends and donors of The Shelter including private contributions, cookbook sales, events, foundations, businesses, groups and others, over $575,000 was raised for the 2011 renovation and expansion project. In essence, this growth and support represented a circle of special friends, volunteers, men, women, and children uniting together and sharing a huge responsibility. The outcome has truly been incredible. While our statistical numbers continue to increase, so does the number of lives changed forever.
All these years, we have operated under the division of Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services and we have worked tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of battered women and their children who are struggling to leave violence and turmoil and to renew their lives free of danger. Not only is it important to provide a shelter for our community, but it is also vital to increase public awareness, to build partnerships, to advocate for those voices unheard and to continue communicating the seriousness of this epidemic affecting men, women, and children.
We offer a wide variety of services to the community including a 24- hour crisis line, emergency shelter, court advocacy, information and referral, linkage to community resources, bilingual services, safety assessment and planning, onsite counseling to victims in the comminty, support groups (on and offsite) free training for health and human service professionals in our community, and assistance in filing victim compensation paperwork. Within The Shelter, we offer our residents all of the above services as well as counseling, parenting classes, temporary child care, and assistance with transportation, health classes, and individual services provided by Case Managers.
We have been enriched by the love and genuine concern our donors show our residential families. It is through their gracious support that we can in return provide the assistance needed to help, challenge, and inspire others to walk their journey without violence and harm.