The Women's Center

In 1977, a group of women met to discuss forming a center for women in Fort Worth, Texas, with Karen Perkins agreeing to be president of the board. The purpose of the center was to provide services for women, including information and referral service, education (through programs, workshops and seminars) and employment assistance.

In October 1978, former Texas Rep. Chris Miller donated her legislative office for use as a women's center. A Comprehensive Employment and Training Act grant for $17,000 paid three staff members and allowed them to move into the donated office in January 1979.

The Women's Center officially opened in Fort Worth May 18, 1979, as "The Fort Worth Women's Center Inc." The center received it first grant for $23,500 from the McMurray Foundation, which allowed Perkins to receive a salary as executive director. Perkins actively recruited a large community board and raised money.

The center merged with a rape crisis support program to help victims of sexual assault and abuse, including children, as well as educate children regarding how to prevent abuse.

The Women's Center grew and changed during the 1980s, joining United Way in 1983 with initial funding of $33,000—this number reached $550,000 in 2000. It introduced general counseling services for women, men and families; expanded rape crisis services; and developed and expanded employment programs. In 1987, it moved to its current location, opened a second full-service satellite office in Arlington, Texas, and launched clinical counseling for adult sexual abuse victims and play therapy for sexually abused children. In 1989, a small group of prominent men held the first annual Men Who Love Women party and fundraising event.

During the 1990s, private companies and community groups adopted The Women's Center as a partner in signature fundraising events. Additionally, the center expanded employment services for welfare mothers using a $1 million federal grant and launched its annual Victory Over Violence Walk/Run.

In 2000, the center experimented with Cars for Jobs, a state-funded auto donation program, and in 2002 began participating in an employment demonstration program for low-income individuals funded by the Rockefeller Foundation. In 2003, it assumed operation of Fort Worth's largest adolescent pregnancy prevention education program and began providing the program in Fort Worth schools.

This Web exclusive information is a supplement to Raise the roof.