To help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes in Charlotte County. C.A.R.E. works to create safety in our community by helping survivors and by promoting non-violent and healthy relationships by education and example.
Board of Directors
Mary Grace Lorah
What is C.A.R.E.? History
The Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Inc. of Charlotte County (C.A.R.E.) began operating as the Charlotte County Rape Crisis Center in May 1983. Founders Jane Brenner and Bill Riley organized a group of trained volunteers dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault through their crises. Volunteers included the first Board Chair, Phil Jones, Esq., Dr. Gerald Ross and Sheriff Glen Sapp.
In February of 1985, founding Board member Paula Hess was appointed Shelter Acquisition Chairman. In May of 1985, Don R. Witter, President of First Federal of Charlotte County, leased to the Center for two years at $1.00 per year, a small 2- bedroom house slated to be demolished, on property in Punta Gorda purchased by First Federal for a new bank building. Nancy Lisby, also a founding Board member, served as the unpaid Executive Director of the shelter.
At this time the organization was renamed Center for Rape & Abuse Emergencies Inc. (C.A.R.E). The effort to replace this temporary shelter with a permanent facility began with requests to the City of Punta Gorda & to Charlotte County for Federal Revenue Sharing Funds. The City Council under Mayor E.W. Jack Beck voted C.A.R.E. $10,000 of these funds as contribution toward building or buying a suitable facility. The organization met the challenge of building a shelter on public property, supported by county funding. The Charlotte County Board of Commissioners, through the efforts of Commissoner Dick Holt voted $15,000 of Revenue Sharing Funds designated as salary for the C.A.R.E. Executive Director. As a result of continuous community support, C.A.R.E. has operated a specially designed shelter since 1987, which is one of Florida’s 42 Certified Domestic Violence Shelters. With the help of the City of Punta Gorda, and Habitat for Humanity, a single residence transitional housing unit was completed in 2002.
In the fall of 2003, The C.A.R.E. Auxiliary Society was organized as a social and fundraising arm of C.A.R.E. The Society’s general purpose is to “Help the Kids at C.A.R.E.” Presidents have included Teresa Palmer, Kim Fender, Kathy Palmer and Millie Rosenfield, Judith Harris and Kristie Lawson. The organization’s annual events have included Golf Tournaments, Chef Cooking Demonstrations, Fishing Tournaments, Dart and Trivia skill events and an annual luncheon.
In 2003, C.A.R.E., under the leadership of Executive Director Kay E. Tvaroch, and Board Chair Linda Lusk, the organization was awarded a State of Florida Capital Improvement Grant. Charlotte County Commissioners under the Chairmanship of Matthew DeBoer voted to move ahead with needed shelter modifications. Hurricane Charley in 2004 postponed the project. Supplementary SHIP funding was approved in 2005 by Charlotte County Commissioners under the leadership of Sarah Devos, and the 24-bed upgraded shelter, and counseling facility, was completed in the spring of 2007.
In 2004, C.A.R.E. in partnership with Charlotte County Environmental and Extension Services began C.A.R.E.’s Project Reuse, a collaborative effort to keep usable items out of landfill, and at the same time augment funding for C.A.R.E. Garage sale left overs and other household items are welcomed at C.A.R.E.’s Project Reuse located at the county’s Mid-county Transfer facility on Kenilworth Blvd. in Port Charlotte, and on Environmental Way in Englewood.
In 2005, C.A.R.E. began a partnership with The United Way of Charlotte County and Charlotte County Human Services to provide 2-1-1 non-emergency information and referral services to Charlotte County residents. C.A.R.E. continues this co-operative project, now under the direction of Charlotte County Fire and EMS services.
C.A.R.E. services include a 24-bed domestic violence shelter, transitional housing, hospital response, crisis intervention, court advocacy, crimes compensation assistance, relocation assistance, 24-hour hotline access (941-627-6000; 941-475-6465; 941-637-0404), information and referral, and support groups for women and children. C.A.R.E. is currently in the second year of a three year federal grant for the purpose of providing free civil legal services to many victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Within the next year it is important that the agency raise local awareness of the need for affordable or pro bono legal services and local funding for this critical assistance.
The goal of C.A.R.E. is to create safety in our community by helping survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes and to promote non-violent relationships by example and education. C.A.R.E. provides violence prevention targeting youth organizations, and Green Dot active bystander programming to community groups, service organizations, and businesses.
Community Outreach includes office locations at 6868 San Casa in Englewood, the Office of the State Attorney in Punta Gorda, the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, and the Punta Gorda Police Department. Victims who wish to file an injunction for protection from domestic, repeat, dating, or sexual violence, or stalking, may visit the Charlotte County Clerk of the Court for services.
C.A.R.E. remains dependant on volunteers. Volunteers who work directly with victims complete prescribed online and in-house training before answering phones, visiting hospitals, and performing other one-on-one services. Other volunteers help sort and sell donated items at either of C.A.R.E.’s two ReUse store locations.
The C.A.R.E. organization is supported by financial contributions from the community, county and city government, The United Way, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, the Department of Children and Families, and the Florida Department of Health, and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation. Vigorous pursuit of grants and contributed services and goods means that C.A.R.E. delivers more than a dollar’s worth of client services for every dollar donated. All funds are used to provide services in Charlotte County.
In 2011, the Board pledged support to financial sustainability and continued efforts to build our endowment. The Chief Advancement Officer focuses on planned giving, development and founded our legacy society, the Circle of Compassion. A Community Action Team was formed in the Englewood area to raise awareness in the community and to ensure sustainability of services and programs.
Early in 2016, Karen McElhaney assumed the role of Executive Director. Also in 2016, expansion construction started at the Administration/Shelter Building. Funding was approved by the Charlotte County Board of Commissioners in the 2014 CIP. The kitchen was renovated by reconfiguring storage and replacing the worn cabinets, a new Board Room was constructed, and children’s play area in the residential hall was expanded.
For over thirty years, Charlotte County’s has proudly supported this home-grown grass-roots effort to help those who are hurting to achieve support and healing. Charlotte County is C.A.R.E.