Cynthia Gates began her position as executive director of the Tri-County Protective Agency in August and now is “getting acclimated” to the job.
Gates was one of the first employees to work at the shelter when it opened in 1988, she said.
“I was with them for 10 years,” Gates said.
She said when the top position at the agency opened up, she immediately applied.
“It’s a worthy cause and helps a lot of good people,” Gates said.
The new shelter director said she intends to do more fundraising and grant-writing. Funds are needed for the shelter’s operating expenses and to provide clients basic necessities like food, clothing, housing and transportation, as well as therapeutic services, so residents can recover and become self-sufficient. The shelter serves Liberty, Long, Bryan, Tattnall and Evans counties.
Gates said survivors of spousal/relationship abuse generally are more willing to ask for help today than they were 25 years ago, when she first worked at the shelter.
“Years ago, there was more secrecy among families,” Gates said. “Now, more people are coming forward and saying, ‘I need help.’”
The shelter director counted 2,190 “bed nights” from January through November, meaning the total number of nights residents stayed at the shelter.
“We served 486 individuals so far this year,” Gates said. “Residents tend to stay longer now.”
She said weekly support group meetings and referrals also are provided “outside” clients who do not stay at the shelter, but still need support to continue their recovery.
“We don’t disclose the locations of the groups until the person is ready to participate,” Gates said. Ensuring shelter clients’ security is a priority “for obvious reasons,” she said.
These support groups help clients realize they’re not alone, Gates said. Participants also can help support one another since they have survived similar experiences, she said. The shelter serves clients of all ages, races, ethnicities and socioeconomic circumstances.
“We might serve the 20-year-old, we might get the 65- to 70-year-old here,” the shelter director said.
Gates said she and her staff do whatever they can to help provide clients whatever resources they need, and often make referrals to other agencies. She said clients might need mental-health or medical services because of the abuse. Others need food and clothing, and diapers for their infants and toddlers. The shelter also helps clients attain temporary protective orders.
Gates said she and her staff also assist clients in finding employment, housing and transportation, so they may become more self-sufficient.
“They often don’t have a vehicle of their own,” she said. “This is a rural area. Transit doesn’t run out this far.”
Gates said the shelter also offers the children of in-house residents some services, like therapeutic groups and homework assistance.
Shelter staff also does their best to ensure residents experience a pleasant and relaxed Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday, she said. Church groups have stepped in to help during the holidays, Gates said.
Gates said the Liberty County community has been wonderfully supportive of the shelter, and that she and her staff are willing to speak to any church or civic group about the work they do.
For more information, call 368-9200.