Christmas was nearly two weeks ago, but officials with CASA Women’s Shelter weren’t complaining about a late gift received from the city of Pine Bluff Thursday morning at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. presented a $100,000 donation earmarked as part of a 20-percent matching-funds requirement for a $3.6 million Donald W. Reynolds grant for construction and furnishing of a new, “state-of-the-art” shelter for CASA (Committee Against Spouse Abuse.)
To be ready for occupancy in May, the facility is located on an East 12th Avenue and State Street site given to the United Way-supported agency by the Walter “Buster” Simpson family.
The city had previously intended to give $50,000 to the cause, but budget restraints disallowed that plan. Increased revenues eventually enabled the city to double its donation and help CASA in surpassing its match goal.
“We sincerely and deeply appreciate this presentation,” said CASA board chairman Dr. Simmie Armstong Jr., a board member since 1982. He called the new shelter “a long-term dream that’s becoming a reality.”
CASA Director Karen Palmer agreed, saying, “We dream big.”
Redus said he and city council members are “proud” that the city can provide financial support for CASA, which has served more than 66,000 individuals since its 1979 inception. The mayor said the municipality and CASA are long-time partners in battling spousal abuse.
Pointing out that physically and/or emotionally abused women here “know they can and will receive help” from CASA, Redus stressed, “Domestic violence had often been overlooked, excused or denied, but is now treated as a criminal offense.”
The local operation has been recognized as a national pacesetter among women’s shelters, not only for its successes in providing safe refuge for its clients, but also its creation and implementation of “life-changing” educational programs. Redus praised CASA for its achievements in solving problems involving “homelessness and related issues, and special needs of victims of domestic violence.”
Armstong said the new location will be CASA’s fifth and “hopefully, it’s last.” He said he’s especially glad that Palmer is overseeing the operation during this transition, in which shelter capacity will double to 60.
Armstrong has worked with five directors over the past 30 years and praised Palmer.
“She has a passion for service,” he said.