A long-standing organization in Bryan that has provided support to the surrounding community for over 25 years has recently announced a change in their name. Effective January 1, 2017, “Sarah’s House” returned to their corporate name “Sarah’s Friends”.
Within the Bryan and surrounding area, many are familiar with the organization “Sarah’s House” but probably do not realize that this organization exists under the entity of “Sarah’s Friends, Inc.” When Sarah’s House first opened its doors, it was located in a small house next to the Bryan Hospital in the space where the Dialysis Center is currently located. At that time, its purpose was to provide a safe and comfortable place for child victims of abuse to be interviewed. The interviews were recorded so that the child only had to go through the difficult process of telling their story once. SARAH stands for Sexual Abuse Response Awareness and Help.
Over the years, Sarah’s House has experienced tremendous growth and change. Changing protocols for child abuse investigation by law enforcement and Job and Family Services in 1996 necessitated that interviews were no longer able to be conducted at Sarah’s House. In 1997, after some revision, Sarah’s House officially stated, “it is our mission at Sarah’s House to address the problem of violence in Williams County through prevention, education, and intervention, and by assisting victims of crime.” In 2013, the mission was revised to state “to empower victims of Domestic Violence and crime to heal emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”
Throughout the years, Sarah’s House has provided various training and prevention efforts including training for law enforcement on family violence, evidence based programing for middle and high school students on safe and healthy relationships, bullying prevention programs for elementary students, and trainings for HR professionals on domestic violence in the workplace. In addition, Sarah’s House has also provided support groups for children and adults experiencing divorce and for women who have experienced domestic violence and mentoring programs.
Sarah’s House has always had a strong focus on advocacy for survivors of crime, most often those who have experienced domestic violence.
Examples of services provided have included financial, emotional, and material support, referrals for legal services, social services, and counseling.
Fifteen years ago, a housing program that assisted individuals and families with rental deposits and short-term rental subsidy was started.
This type of assistance often reached women and children who were escaping dangerous living situations. As this program grew, Sarah’s House began utilizing one of the apartments they owned as transitional housing in 2010. Currently, they are in the process of converting several more apartments to expand this frequently utilized service.
Due to the extensive span of services provided, it became apparent to board members of “Sarah’s House” that the community most likely did not have a complete understanding of what the organization does. For example, some people think the organization is a house run by a woman named Sarah. Others assume the organization is a shelter for those who experienced domestic violence. Still, many others do not know what the organization’s focus and mission is within in the community.
At the end of 2015, the board decided it was time to address these issues and confusion. A survey in January 2016 revealed some insight into the confusion around the name “Sarah’s House.” The strategic committee met several times and worked with a focus group of stakeholders from the community to make the decision to revert back to their corporate name of “Sarah’s Friends.” They also have included a new tagline “Helping Those Harmed by Crime” and modified the logo.
Future initiatives include a change in the signage on their building and initiating a PR campaign to help the community better understand their mission and services. Ultimately, the organization envisions the growth of support from and within the community to expand the important work they provide to the many members of the county who deal with crime and in particular, domestic and relationship violence.
Executive Director Katie Cramer is excited about the future for “Sarah’s Friends” in the community. “Our organization has been truly blessed over the past 25 years with the outpouring of community support received. We are excited to use this rebrand as an opportunity to not only correct some misconceptions of who we are and what we do, but to be able to spread awareness to more of the public and provide future assistance to those who may have never contacted us in the past.”
If someone is in need of services from “Sarah’s Friends,” they can contact the office at 201 S. Main Street, Bryan or call at 419-636-7272. The website is www.sarahsfriends.org and includes an option for a contact form if that method is easier or safer.
Tammy Allison may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org