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 began operating as the Charlotte County Rape Crisis Center in May of 1983. Bill Riley and Jane Brenner had the vision; they organized and trained volunteers to help victims of sexual assault deal with the trauma they experienced. Volunteers included Phil Jones, Esq. who served as the first Board Chair, Dr. Gerald Ross, Sheriff Glen Sapp and members of the Zonta Club of Punta Gorda –Port Charlotte.
In 1985, founding Board member Paula Hess was appointed Shelter Acquisition Chairman. Working with Don R. Witter, President of First Federal of Charlotte County, a 2-year lease was arranged for the Center, at $1.00 per year, for a small two-bedroom house that was slated to be demolished. Calls were coming in from victims of domestic violence to the crisis line, and in May 1985, the organization was renamed The Center for Abuse and Rape Emergencies, Inc. (C.A.R.E.). Nancy Lisby, another founding Board member, served as the volunteer Executive Director of the shelter in the early days.
Efforts to replace the temporary shelter with a permanent facility began immediately. Requests to the City of Punta Gorda and Charlotte County were made for Federal Revenue Sharing Funds. Mayor Jack Beck and the City Council approved $10,000 towards building or buying a suitable facility. C.A.R.E. was able to meet the challenge of building a specially designed shelter on public property supported by county funding. The Board of County Commissioners, guided by Commissioner Dick Holt, designated $15,000 of these funds as the salary for the C.A.R.E. Executive Director. As a result of continuing and steadfast community support, C.A.R.E. has operated as a dual-service victims’ service center since 1987. A single-family residence was built as a transitional housing unit for clients in 2002, with help from the City of Punta Gorda and in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
Generous and committed women of the community organized a social and fundraising arm of C.A.R.E. in 2003 named the C.A.R.E. Auxiliary Society. Members plan events to raise funds to “help the kids at C.A.R.E.” including golf and fishing tournaments, chef cooking demonstrations, trivia and dart competitions and their signature annual luncheon. Auxiliary Presidents have included Teresa Palmer, Kim Fender, Kathy Palmer, Millie Rosenfield, Judith Harris, Kristie Lawson, and Laura Rich.
A State of Florida Capital Improvement Grant was awarded to C.A.R.E. in 2003. Executive Director Kay Tvaroch and Board Chair Linda Lusk made plans with County Commissioner Matthew DeBoer to move ahead with shelter modifications, but Hurricane Charley postponed the project. Fortunately, the Board of County Commissioners under the leadership of Sarah Devos, approved supplementary SHIP funding to upgrade the 24-bed shelter and added individual counseling rooms to serve walk-in clients.
Another county partnership was established with Charlotte County Environmental and Extension Services to start Project ReUse to benefit C.A.R.E. This collaborative effort keeps usable items out of the landfill; household item donations and garage sale leftovers are welcomed at the county’s Mid County Transfer Recycling Center on Kenilworth Blvd. in Port Charlotte, and the West Charlotte Recycling Facility on Environmental Way in Englewood. Reused items at the ReUse Store are available to C.A.R.E. clients free-of-charge, and the profits from items sold add to unrestricted funds to provide services to victims and survivors. In 2005, C.A.R.E. entered a partnership with The United Way of Charlotte County and Charlotte County Human Services to provide 2-1-1 non-emergency information and referrals to community residents.
Our mission is to help victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other violent crimes. C.A.R.E. services include: 24-hour Hotline/Helpline access to a live advocate ready to help; a domestic violence shelter; hospital response at any time; safety planning; crisis intervention; court advocacy; crimes compensation assistance; relocation assistance; information and referral; economic justice training and planning; support groups for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors and children; transitional housing; Green Dot Active Bystander classes; and prevention and outreach education community-wide. C.A.R.E. aggressively seeks grant funding and donations to provide free civil legal services to many victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Our agency is committed to raising local awareness of the need for affordable or pro bono legal services and the funding to support this critical assistance. Services are always provided free-of-charge.
C.A.RE. is committed to creating safety in our community by helping survivors of violence, sexual abuse and assault, and to promoting non-violent relationships through education and by example. Violence prevention education and outreach targets youth organizations, businesses, service organizations, the faith community and the public at-large. Community outreach locations include the West County Annex at 6868 San Casa Drive 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 are seeking an injunction for protection from domestic violence, repeat abusers, dating or sexual violence, or stalking may visit the Charlotte County Clerk of the Court at the Justice Center in Punta Gorda.
Services and programs provided by C.A.R.E. are supported by financial contributions from individual donors, in-kind donors, legacy gifts, county and city governments, The United way of Charlotte County, Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA), the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV), the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence (FCASV), the Department of Children and Families, and the Florida Department of Health. Vigorous pursuit of grants and contributed services and goods ensures that C.A.R.E. delivers more than a dollar’s worth of client services for every dollar donated, and all funds are used to provide services in Charlotte County. The time volunteers share with C.A.R.E. allows the agency to extend the value of donations and grants. Volunteers work directly with victims by answering crisis calls, supporting victims in hospitals on call-out, and perform any services needed to support clients. Extensive training is provided to prepare volunteers to help victims. Volunteers also help sort, price, display and sell items at the two ReUse Store locations.
In 2011, the C.A.R.E. Board pledged to build and support financial sustainability by building our endowment. The Chief Advancement Officer focuses on securing legacy gifts, planned giving education, and founded the legacy society, the Circle of Compassion. A community action team was formed to raise awareness in the Englewood community and depends on citizens and community leaders to serve as ambassadors of C.A.R.E.
Early in 2016, Karen McElhaney assumed the role of Executive Director, and facility expansion construction began at the Administration Building. Paula Hess, Chair Emeritus, worked tirelessly to secure funding for the project; CIP funds were approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The original kitchen was fully renovated by reconfiguring storage and replacing the worn cabinets, a new Board Room and offices were constructed, and the children’s play area was expanded. The Board funded a beautification project which enhanced security of the facility, and completed the interior courtyard and landscaping.
Additional services to benefit survivors were added in 2017. C.A.R.E. offers multiple support groups for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as financial literacy. An Economic Justice program provides training to clients to aid in personal development in the areas of finance and banking, nutrition and cooking, resume writing and preparing for job interviews. These learning opportunities prepare survivors to transition to greater independence and set them up for personal success.
For more than 35 years, Charlotte County has proudly supported this home grown, grass-roots organization which serves to help people who are hurting to heal and thrive. Charlotte County is C.A.R.E.
Domestic Violence Hotline 941-627-6000
Sexual Assault Helpline 941-637-0404