An Indianapolis native with 34 years of experience in the local nonprofit sphere, Jessica White currently serves as the Interim Executive Director of The Julian Center, a women’s shelter that’s more than just a shelter.
A graduate of The Ardath Burkhart Series of the United Way of Central Indiana, White has been a featured instructor and lecturer on fundraising and nonprofit management topics at local, state, and national levels.
In this latest installment of our Nonprofit Leaders Series, White tells us about her proudest moment, the importance of The Julian Center in our community, and a new group for service-minded young professionals.
1. What made you want to work at The Julian Center?
In 1991, I was asked to join the Julian Center board because they needed someone with administrative experience. I came on to serve a one-year term. I ended that term eleven years later.
I was president of the board before they decided to make the shelter publicly known. With the shelter being hidden, no one knew there was a problem with domestic violence. Cab drivers knew, but not the community. There were people we couldn’t reach because they didn’t know they had somewhere to go. Some board members left when the decision was made to go public out of fear for the women’s safety. But there are police on the grounds at all times, and we take extensive measures to ensure safety.
2. What would you say is the most important service The Julian Center provides to the community?
We provide a safe place for women in the middle of trauma. And for the women who come and stay, we provide hope for a different future, that they can change the life they had.
For the community, it’s knowing that women have a place to go and that they’re safe. We’re helping these women become more contributing members of society.
Now, the new vision is all about the children. We’re seeing women who come to the shelter who were here as children. So, our focus is going to be much more on the children. It’s not that you can’t change the lives of these women, but the children need to learn early on. It’s not just about the short-term, it’s about the long-term.
3. What is the biggest public misconception about the services you provide here?
The biggest misconception about The Julian Center is that we’re only a shelter. Most people don’t realize that we have a school here for children, we have self-sufficiency programs, we do outreach to women who are victims of domestic violence who don’t need a shelter. While the police work with the perpetrator, we have someone with the woman letting her know what her options are. We work with the IMPD to prevent human trafficking.
We also work with men. We don’t shelter them, but we do provide other services. We have women from all socio-economic classes. You would assume these women have somewhere to go, but even if they come from a background where they have a strong family, they can’t always go to them for fear of putting their families’ lives in jeopardy.
5. What has been your proudest moment, so far?
Being asked to be a part of The Julian Center. Initially, I thought it was another nonprofit I could lend a hand to. But after getting involved, I realized what a difference I was making. A real difference in the lives of people I get to meet and know.
6. Describe women who initially come to The Julian Center in three words:
Fearful, traumatized, beaten-down.
7. Describe them when they leave in three words:
Renewed, hopeful, self-confident
8. How can the community best help The Julian Center continue to thrive?
A big one is always financial support. It costs $11,000 dollars a day to support the Julian Center. Volunteering. Being more aware of the signs of domestic violence to offer support to someone going through it or to get them here to get the help they need.
There is always a need for donations. There’s a wish list on the website. When families move out we allow them to take the sheets and towels, just to get them started, so we always need more of those. If there are things we can’t use that are donated, we sell them at Thrifty Threads, our resale shop. Nothing goes to waste.
9. How can local professionals get involved?
We’re started a young professionals group for volunteering and networking, so be on the lookout for that. One of our largest fundraisers,The Julian Jam, will take place downtown at Crane Bay, September 13, 2013. We hope to see you there!
For more info, visit The Julian Center website or call 317-941-2200.