Women’s shelter celebrates first Christmas in new facility

The residents of the CASA, Inc. Women’s Shelter in Pine Bluff are preparing to celebrate their first Christmas in the facility that opened in late spring of this year.

Executive Director Karen Palmer said Friday that the shelter is providing a safe and secure holiday for almost 20 women and their children.

“We are at our maximum capacity,” Palmer said. “But we have so much more room here than we had in the old building. Now everybody can eat together as a group where before people had to eat in shifts because of space limitations.”

Palmer said that local groups are donating gifts for the women and their children just as they have done for many years.

“A lot of people have brought gifts,” Palmer said. “We have received items from different organizations, churches and companies. Our board room is just about full. The kids can see the packages and they are excited.”

Palmer said that the different families staying at the shelter prepare their own meals.

“We supply some things for them to use but they do their own thing,” Palmer said.

The new building doubles the available bed space and includes a two-chair beauty salon, Palmer said at the facility’s April 26 dedication. Support services include a support group for teens, a growing segment of the female population experiencing domestic violence, according to Palmer.

Palmer said a state-of-the-art security system was included in the project.

“There is no state funding for CASA,” Palmer said in April. “The center’s operation depends entirely on grants and donations from groups and individuals, many of whom are the wonderful, generous people of Pine Bluff.

The center is staffed around the clock and the crisis line (870-535-0287) is answered by a trained person seven days a week at all times of the day and night, according to Palmer.

CASA Inc. (Committee Against Spouse Abuse), a private non-profit organization established to provide services to battered women and their children, was organized in 1980 in response to a demonstrated need in the community.

The Junior League of Pine Bluff funded CASA in June 1982 and the first shelter officially opened in July of that year. One staff member was hired and a handful of volunteers were furnished to the agency by the Junior League, with a rented facility offering food, shelter, security, and clothing to victims of domestic violence and their children.

In November 1984, because of the program’s reputation, increased services, and funding from the First Presbyterian Church, CASA was able to purchase a facility to provide increased space for the growing program.

CASA was able to purchase a larger facility in August 1990 and it was enlarged in 1994 to meet the growing demand.

Larry Fugate contributed to this article.