History of the Family Justice Center of Georgetown and Horry Counties
By May of 2006 there had been three domestic violence (DV) murders in the Georgetown-Horry County area. Georgetown County alone had experienced about 500 adjudicated DV cases that year.
In light of these alarming events, the organization that provided shelter and some adjunct services for victims of domestic violence made an impassioned plea: they desperately needed help from the community to support their over-burdened system of service delivery to these victims and their families.
The League of Women Voters decided to take on this challenge and began by conducting a forum discussion to include law enforcement and service providers, open to the public at the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office. Many of the frustrations faced by victims of domestic violence looking for basic services became apparent at that meeting, sometimes voiced by the victims themselves.
An ad hoc committee began to organize monthly meetings designed to inform and educate its members, inviting guest speakers from each of the DV service organizations, from the courts and from law enforcement. The committee was soon in awe of the enormity of the problems confronting victims seeking help. Where and how to begin to tackle such a complex issue?
A committee member soon offered up a book called “Help for Hurting Families”, outlining the concept and creation of a model agency, a Family Justice Center (FJC), already open and serving victims of domestic violence with great success in San Diego. A second book soon followed by the same authors, a step-by-step template for how to go about opening a FJC in your own community.
A decision was made by a core committee of 5 people to adopt this particular model, and to form a 501(c) (3) with the express purpose of opening a FJC in Georgetown County. They received their non-profit status from the IRS in June 2007 as Safe Families Initiative (SFI).
Although at that time there were about 65 FJC facilities operating in the US, mostly sponsored by local government, Safe Families quickly discovered they were on their own. They obtained the use of an office in Georgetown, began putting a Board of Directors together to build the non-profit, all the while raising money to get the project off the ground. Safe Families also provided pro bono office space and an office manager to the staff of the local shelter agency: Phase One of a FJC.
In April 2010, Safe Families signed a lease-to-buy agreement on a 7500 sq. ft. building in the city of Georgetown requiring a lengthy renovation; this accomplished only through a huge outpouring of community support. In January 2011 the doors were opened and the mission accomplished in 4 years.
Safe Families Initiative officially became a Family Justice Center: Phase Two!
As of 2012 a staff of 7 operated the facility and provided comprehensive, on-going services for domestic violence victims including counseling, legal advocacy and court advocacy. All established with a few foundation grants but primarily through private local contributions and donated labor and materials.
In April of 2013 and with an additional staff of 5, FJC began operating the only shelter in Georgetown County for victims of domestic violence: Phase Three!
In 2012 over 350 clients were served. The following year (2013) FJC served approximately 600+ victims. In the meantime local law enforcement has experienced a reduction in CDV calls and the FJC received state and federal monies.
Since 2013 FJC has experienced a period of exponential growth! Support from the community has increased significantly and, with the addition of a part-time grant writer, the organization has been able to access many more sources of support from corporations, faith communities, state and federal funds, and private foundations.
During 2016, the organization changed its name to "Family Justice Center of Georgetown and Horry Counties". This came about as a result of the ever increasing number of victims, in Horry County, seeking services from FJC. It became increasingly clear to the Board and the Co-Executive Directors that we would need to expand our services into this region as many victims were going without help.
In that same year, FJC opened a “satellite” office in Myrtle Beach. The building was donated to this organization by a generous supporter and, within a few weeks, FJC was providing counseling, crisis intervention, court advocacy and case management to those in need.
This incredible expansion has increased our staff to 17 employees and, in 2016, FJC served 957 clients – an increase of approximately 170% from 2012.
2017 brought about continued growth and a groundbreaking ceremony for the agency’s new 5,250 square feet headquarters plus the expansion of FJC’s Children’s Enrichment Program.
In January 2018 staff moved into the “much needed” new headquarters facility and added 1 new staff position. A Housing Specialist was hired in partnership with ECHO, to expedite housing access to FJC clients.
Now at 17 employees, continued growth was experienced in the need for services and in 2021 we served 1,110 women, children and men. We are very excited about our new expansion into Horry County- we received funding in 2021 to build a much-needed shelter which will allow clients easier access for safety. We predict that our new shelter will be built and open to receive residents in late 2023.
Obviously, the dedicated board, staff and Executive Director are determined to provide excellent services to victims of domestic violence and their children and will, without fail, go the extra mile to ensure victim safety and well-being. The need is obvious and the commitment to meet that need is strong and unyielding. Together, we provide comfort, safety, healing and care the families we serve.