Client Feature and Executive Director Q&A: The Women’s Shelter and Support Center: Serving Southeast Minnesota

Client Feature The Women’s Shelter And Support Center & Executive Director Q&a Artyce Thomas

Written by Corenne Gutierrez

June 25, 2024

The Women’s Shelter and Support Center serves victims of domestic abuse in 10 Southeast Minnesota counties. Beginning 48 years ago, the nonprofit has a long-standing history in the community supporting survivors and empowering donors and volunteers to make a difference.

Today, the nonprofit operates eight facilities and several satellite offices. The Women’s Shelter and Support Center offers clients emergency shelter, transitional housing, rental assistance, and permanent rentals. It operates a hotline and support groups for adults, youth, and children affected by domestic violence. Additionally, volunteers and staff assist clients through the legal process from orders of protection to court and legal filings. For rural clients, the nonprofit provides transportation to services and programs.

Children are often the innocent bystanders of abuse and the nonprofit advocates for their needs. The children’s department at the Women’s Shelter provides them with support and life enrichment activities, like field trips and weekly support groups.

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“Families sometimes return to share success stories and this is so rewarding,” remarked Artyce Thomas, Executive Director.

Thomas notes that the organization’s success is evident by their capacity to attract and retain a very generous donor base. They also receive daily inquiries from individuals interested in volunteering.

“Going forward, our goal is to bring more awareness to our communities, be as far-reaching as possible, and be more visible.”

The Women’s Shelter also engages with the community and presents topics to local businesses on how to notice and respond to domestic violence.

The Women’s Shelter and Support Center will soon build a new facility that will increase its emergency shelter capacity from 30 to 75 individuals, making them more visible in the community. The organization is slated to move into the facility at the end of 2025. The nonprofit was awarded a grant through the Minnesota Department of Human Service, Office of Economic Opportunity. The new building will offer gender-inclusive support, an onsite kennel, a child development center, an onsite consignment shop, and space for additional programming.

For Thomas, who has worked in domestic abuse prevention and support for nearly 25 years, this project is career-defining for herself and her entire director team.

Learn more about The Women’s Shelter and Support Center online: https://www.womens-shelter.org/

 

Executive Director Q&A: Artyce Thomas

Artycethomas

Artyce Thomas joined the Women’s Shelter and Support Center in the role of Executive Director, in August of 2019, bringing with her a wealth of experience and profound commitment to the cause. The WSSC is a domestic violence program serving a 10-county region throughout Southeastern Minnesota. She is the previous Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Network, (PAIRWN) in Harrisburg PA. In this capacity, she spearheaded transformative initiatives aimed at empowering immigrant and refugee women and children, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and nurturing emerging leaders withing the community. She is also the former Executive Director of the Women’s Help Center, a domestic violence program in western Pennsylvania. During her tenure there, she provided executive-level management within a domestic violence residential program setting, across a three-county region. She has dedicated her 20+ year career to amplifying the voices of survivors and advocating for social change.

What has been your biggest source of pride as executive director?

My biggest source of pride has always resided in fostering seamless collaboration, be it through the expansion of programming initiatives or the establishment of effective grant partnerships.

What are your three biggest accomplishments in your career as a nonprofit leader?

I’d have to say my three most significant accomplishments entail guiding families as they embark on their journey to safety and healing, and actively participating in that transformative process. Following closely is my commitment to amplifying the voices of survivors withing the realm of legislation, embodying social justice advocacy. Finally, paramount in importance, is my stewardship of WSSC as we traverse a historic milestone with the Shelter Capital Project.

What are the dominant challenges that you see nonprofit organizations facing and what do you think would be viable solutions?

The predominant challenges confronting nonprofits revolve around the insufficiency of operational funding. Like many organizations, we have witnessed a notable surge in the demand for services, oftentimes surpassing the funding capacity. Addressing this dilemma necessitates a strategic augmentation of financial resources to adequately meet the escalating needs of the community.

What other executive directors or philanthropic leaders do you look up to?

Thankfully, I have wonderful working relationships with my board members, in addition to strong connections with other DV Executive Directors locally and across the state. This network serves as an invaluable resource, particularly in leadership roles where one can occasionally feel isolated in their endeavors.

What aspects of nonprofit accounting do you find most challenging?

Challenge, What challenge? In all honesty, we are blessed with an exceptional team comprising dedicated staff, accountants, and a highly engaged Finance Subcommittee within our WSSC board of Directors. Their collective efforts alleviate much of the burden, and for that I consider myself exceedingly fortunate.

How do you see the organization changing in the next two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?

I envision the organization becoming more visible across the expansive 10-county region that we serve. Furthermore, I anticipate a significant expansion of our shelter services programming within the new facility, thereby enabling us to provide refuge for even more victims and their families.

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Corenne Gutierrez
I joined Hawkins Ash CPAs in 2011. As the Firm's marketing manager, I develop and deploy strategic marketing and communications plans to fulfill the marketing goals of the Firm as a whole, each office and business line.

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