The Shelter Home of Caldwell County first opened its doors on April 22, 1978. The need for a shelter for battered women was originally established by the Caldwell Council on the Status of Women. With a grant of $8,000, a staff of four and a small group of volunteers visited civic clubs, churches, medical meetings, and local government councils to raise awareness. SHCC was originally established in a building in downtown Lenoir which had been the office of Dr. Caroline McNairy. The building’s owner, Dr. Verne Blackwelder, allowed SHCC to use it rent-free. It was the first shelter in North Carolina for victims of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assault and was the only shelter on the East Coast between Baltimore and Atlanta for some time.
The Shelter Home quickly established its credibility with local law enforcement agencies and has maintained an excellent working relationship with them. It soon became evident that the community had other needs and SHCC responded with additional services: counseling for clients and their children; counseling for child witnesses to domestic violence; court advocacy; legal referrals; employment counseling; financial assistance; childcare; connections to other community services; and, often, just a shoulder to cry on. SHCC also began reaching out to the community with programs in schools to educate students about behavior that frequently leads to violence or sexual abuse.
In 1988, money was raised for a new building which was christened the Jane Carswell House, and none too soon—the old building suffered a serious fire shortly before the new facility opened. The Service League raised a large portion of the $240,000 that was needed, with Reverend Parker Williamson heading up the successful fundraising drive.
A new need was met in 1997 when the Leona B. Carpenter Transitional House, a building of transitional apartments, was added to the Shelter Home. Many women facing independence for the first time in their lives were unable to afford local housing and felt unsafe living alone. In the transitional apartments, women and children starting a new life have an affordable option and are still able to benefit from the services and security of the Shelter Home.
The greatest challenge faced by the Shelter Home today is the struggle to maintain services to the community in the face of dwindling budgets and shrinking contributions from government agencies and charitable organizations that have supported it. Today, more than ever, the Shelter Home depends on the generosity of the community it has served for so long, but we face those challenges knowing that as long as there are victims who need us so badly, we’ll be there to help.