The Family Life Center tackles domestic and sexual violence with determination, tenacity, and a lot of love, with an eye to eliminating the problem in Flagler County.
When calling the Family Life Center in Bunnell, the recorded directory only lists staff by their first names – a subtle, and personal, signal to the caller that everyone is there to help women and children in crisis.
We sat down with CEO Trish Giaccone at the shelter to explore how she, and this sometimes little known organization, accomplishes it's mission.
My biggest fear last year was …
“Our SV (sexual violence) certification falling through. We put lot of resources and energy into the process. I was concerned it wouldn't go through, but we got it on November 18, 2015. We're very grateful to have the center here so victims don't have to travel outside their home county. It's one of those things where you don't know the need for it until you have the need. And when you do, it's an immediate need.”
Next year I look forward most to …
“Graduating with a Masters Degree in Clinical Mental Health from Stetson University. I've been doing this for 3½ years, It will allow me to work as a therapist. Id like to be able to provide more mental health services to the survivors we work with. Right now we have a therapist, but it's limited hours. I can't have interns because no one here has the degree. If I get the degree and tally up the hours I need, I can get interns here. I've come to realize that a lot of social service individuals don't necessarily understand the dynamics of victims of domestic violence, so interning is really a great way for people to engage and get a basic view of victims.
The best advice I ever got was …
“Go for it, what do you have to lose? That was in reference on whether I should apply as Executive Director of this agency. The Interim Director, M.F. Warren, asked me if I was going to apply. I said, 'I didn't think so,' She said, 'You're going to have to train whoever gets the job. Go for it, what do you have to lose? If you don't get the job, you'll still have to train the new person.' I think I'm the first Latina CEO they've had.”
I knew I had made it when …
“I started to hear community members describe the center, and me, as having integrity, being professional, hardworking and tenacious. I went to a meeting and they introduced me saying I embodied integrity and professionalism. I got choked up. And I knew it wasn't just me, it was the center. The community is changing the way they look at what we do here.”
What my employees mean to me …
“Invaluable – our team is what makes the Family Life Center so remarkable. I love them dearly. When I took over the agency in 2010, there was a moment when all our funding was on pause and we weren't sure that we could make payroll. I remember sitting in this room and saying to the staff, 'I'm not sure we can pay you and I understand if you chose not to continue here until we get this straightened out,' Not a single person walked out that door. Since then we have maintained the core of our staffing and they make it work.”
What most people don't know about the business is …
“Although it is a social service organization helping people, a non-profit is still a business with budgets, human resource and marketing needs. A budget shortfall means 'how do we make sure we can pay the light bill and buy food.' Also it's not something that is really marketable, it's the underbelly of our society. People want to hear about the good stuff, the warm and fuzzies, and that's great. But you say we're going to talk about domestic violence and you can feel the air leaving the room.
The best change I made was …
“Incorporating a culture of transparency and trust. I tell people that I may not always agree with your decision, but if you can show me how you got from A to Z, I'm OK with it. We can talk about things that before were not allowed. The previous culture was, 'this is the way it's always been.' To be able to have these conversations with staff also opens up the residents, and I think it also encourages the community to be more accepting.
“I knew I had made it when I started to hear community members describe the center and me as having integrity, being professional, hardworking, and tenacious."
- P. O. Box 2058, Bunnell
- CEO: Trish Giaccone
- What they do: The Family Life Center provides life-saving services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault within the community through its 24-hour, 32-bed Emergency Shelter facility, Youth Prevention Program, Child Advocacy Program, Outreach Services and the Sexual Assault Victim Empowerment (SAVE) Program.
- Awards: Recognized by Flagler Home Builders Association as one of their four charities of choice for 2016, Beneficiary of Palm Coast Yacht Club's First Annual Fashion Show & Luncheon, Beneficiary of the Flagler Sportfishing Club's 20th Annual Spring Classic Fishing Tournament
- Origins: Established in 1987, the Family Life Center is entering its 30th year of providing essential support services to victims of domestic and sexual assault. Trish Giaccone just marked nine years at the Center and became Executive Director (later retitled as CEO) in 2010.
By the Numbers
29 Years in operation
14 Employees as of January 2015
17 Employees as of January 2016
9% Increase in revenue Jan. - Sept. 2016 compared to same period in 2015
$400,000 Increase in the victim's services budget in the last three months
24-hour 32-bed Emergency Shelter facility
From January through October 2016:
207 women and children received emergency shelter
448 Individuals served by the 24-hr help line
138 Received crisis intervention and counseling, legal advocacy, and education and training
62 Survivors provided with sexual assault crisis counseling and medical forensic examination
1 of only 42 State-certified domestic violence centers in Florida
1 of only 31 State-certified rape crisis centers in Florida.
8 Week average stay in shelter