In 1978, the Women’s Advocacy Center (WAC) was formed by Carolyn Ankenny, Stephanie Davis, Kathy Adams House, and Debbie Morelli. These women recognized a severe gap in services for women who were victims of domestic abuse. It formed in an effort to provide counseling and other services to battered women. A grant from the Youth Project, a private foundation was given to WAC. Ms. Morelli worked as the director of WAC and helped lead the organization forward. WAC on-call volunteers assisted victims of domestic violence by providing them with support and counseling. Volunteers accompanied victims to the emergency room, advised them of their legal rights, and often paid for motel rooms when there was no place for the victims and their children to stay.
Shelters existed for men and not women at the time, so finding a shelter for battered women became apparent. In 1979, Reid House, a United Way agency, provided space at its daycare center to house victims of domestic violence. After about a year and a half, the lack of funds caused the shelter to close. WAC and the Board Members tried to combine, but failed to do so. With the support of the Board, Stephanie Davis raised funds for an emergency shelter. A suitable facility was located and Ms. Davis named the shelter “My Sister’s House.” In November 1980, with Dr. Frank van Aalst as its board president, My Sister's House opened its doors in December of that year.
In July 1981, a separate board for My Sister’s House was formed: Dr. Elise Davis-McFarland became the president of the board. Funds from the Department of Social Services and United Way were approved and the agency began making great strides to fulfill its mission. However, the agency soon ran into a problem - the original facility was not large enough due to the high demand of women and children seeking assistance!
In Spring of 1982, city property was available which was suitable for My Sister’s House. A larger and more efficient shelter was purchased and the vision of the agency was refined. The focus was on implementing technology and programs that assisted women and children of domestic violence. In the mid 1990's, the shelter expanded to accommodate an even heavier demand. An endowment fund was established in 1993 and the Court Advocacy Program was established, and in 1997 the shelter location’s mortgage was paid off. In August of 2002, an administrative office was acquired which serves as a follow up of clients, donation drop off site, volunteer interviews, and training.
In 1989, Ms. Elmire Raven took over as Executive Director of My Sister's House. She was critical in establishing a voice for the organization and setting the organization on solid financial ground. She was at the helm of the organization for 28 years and was a stalwart in the community and an ever present advocate for victims of domestic violence. She oversaw the organization through a period of growth and stability and was a major factor in the expansion of the emergency shelter. For many, she became the face of My Sister's House and served in that role faithfully. On May 13, 2017, she officially retired from her position, having successfully brought My Sister's House to the forefront of the conversation on domestic violence.
That same month, Tosha Connors, became the successor to this amazing role and happily accepted the challenge of sustaining and growing the organization in the coming years!