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Hundreds of Volunteers Come Together to Make Family Justice Center a Reality

Article by Matt Dinger, The Oklahoman
Photo by Paul Hellstern, The Oklahoman

Carissa Hooker paints over a doorway as volunteers gathered Saturday to paint the interior of the first location of the Oklahoma City Family Justice Center.

More than 200 volunteers flooded the site of the new Family Justice Center on Saturday to whip the building into habitable shape.

The first — and temporary — site of the new center will be the former NorthCare building, 1140 N Hudson Ave.

Plans are still in development for the final home of the center, billed as a “one-stop shop” for victims of domestic violence. The center is expected to open its doors in November, but the current site is expected to be demolished in about two years, Executive Director Kim Garrett said.

“Our lease is for two years and there’s an option to extend if we need to. It’s a perfect platform for us to get started and keep dreaming for the future ” Garrett said.

“We needed it 10 years ago, quite frankly” she said.

Volunteers 14 and older filled the roughly 5,400-square-feet downstairs and the approximately 12,000-squarefeet upstairs when doors opened at 9 a.m.

Within an hour, most of the walls already had at least one coat of paint on them.

Center staff, as well as volunteers from Rebuilding Together, wrapped up the project by midafternoon with some additional muscle from police cadets and other volunteers. Some familiar faces from the Capitol also turned up to lend a hand.

“Kim Garrett called me about two years ago when she was thinking about pulling this all together. She was working for the police department and asked if I would be on the board ” Cathy Keating said.

“Domestic violence is a huge problem in our community and our state, and I really believe everyone should have an opportunity to be in a happy home and have a happy family, and we need to break the cycle so that we don’t continue this terrible trend in our families and in society” she said.

“I have a weak mind and a strong back, and Cathy said, ‘Get up on a chair and start painting ’ ” former Gov. Frank Keating joked with paint-covered hands and a bead of sweat on his nose.

“Spousal violence in Oklahoma City is an embarrassment, and to have a center like this that brings the public and the private sector together to provide one-stop shopping, if you will, for a beaten and terribly abused spouse is wonderful ” he said.

“I think we are going to reverse the trends and actually be a beacon in America for how to fix a problem ” Cathy Keating said.

The next step will be moving in furniture and computers and preparing to open the doors for clients.

Plans are in motion to paint a mural on the building’s south side.

“It’s a great way to identify that space and let victims know where they’re going ” Garrett said.

“When they told me about what this organization does and the mission they have, I absolutely said yes and we jumped in. I spoke for my board and my staff, but we’re all here ” said Mike Edmison, executive director of Rebuilding Together.

“The police academy is here and we’ve got groups from Boeing and AAA, and Family Justice Center recruited some. The YWCA is here. A lot of different agencies came together to make today work. We just happened to bring the paint ” Edmison said.

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