By Megan Wehring
HAYS COUNTY – To continue supporting victims of abuse, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center (HCWC) held its annual auction on May 21 – raising $192,000 in total.
“We have been truly fortunate to have continued and growing support by our local community,” said Melissa Rodriguez, Chief Executive Officer of the HCWC.
Established in 1978, the HCWC was founded by a local group of women who were holding regular brown bag lunches to discuss women’s issues in the late 70s and soon after, started receiving requests for emergency shelter for victims of domestic violence.
“We are one of the first six shelters that opened later that decade and soon after, added our sexual assault program to be followed by the opening of our children’s advocacy center, Roxanne’s House, in 1997 to serve child abuse victims,” Rodriguez said. “Since the beginning, community and prevention education have been the foundation of our social change work and most recently, after a few years of fundraising, we celebrated the grand opening of our soon to be opened transitional housing program named Marla’s Place.”
This past year, the HCWC served 2,055 adults, youth and children with face-to-face services. Nearly 4,000 HELPLine crisis calls were answered on the 24-hour hotline and over 2,500 individuals and groups were provided community and prevention education. Currently, HCWC is outpacing last year’s demands for services, likely to experience nearly double the number of individuals served.
“We are the only nonprofit organization focused entirely on helping local survivors of abuse and violence in Hays and Caldwell counties, from our emergency shelter to our child advocacy center to our new transitional housing apartment complex,” Rodriguez said. “We are providing critical lifesaving services to our community members, completely free of charge.”
HCWC is funded by different sources including government funding (local, state and federal); individual, foundation, civic and church groups; and several fundraisers.
Rodriguez has worked with the HCWC for over 20 years – giving her the privilege to have worked with thousands of individuals and young children who have touched her heart.
“From the young mother who left her abusive partner to start a new life for her and her children, to the college-aged student who experienced a traumatic sexual assault the first week of school, to the family that was in shock about the sexual abuse of one of their children by a trusted family member, to the brave young man who finally spoke about their past childhood abuse still looking to heal from that trauma, to the grandmother who for the first time felt like she was ready to talk about what happened to her as a young child and again as an adult, [and]to the group of teens talking about healthy relationships for the first time in a group all filled with shared experiences and a hunger to learn more,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a plethora of experiences from the very young to the very old to the very economically disadvantaged to the very wealthy, every gender identity from every community we serve.”