Forming a ‘powerhouse’ Haven House, New Hope to merge, expand family services
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Two Blount County agencies have united their families to better serve the community’s families.
In separate meetings earlier this week, Haven House’s and New Hope — Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center’s boards approved a joint resolution to form a transition team to begin the process of merging and setting up a new agency that will begin unified operations in January.
The merged agency will serve as one of several nonprofits in the state focused on all forms of domestic violence and child abuse, prevention, advocacy, treatment, safe shelter, and victims’ services.
Both agencies will continue providing normal services. The transition team will begin work immediately to develop and execute operational, financial and outreach plans to complete the merger as seamlessly as possible.
Both boards will review and vote on the new agency’s charter and bylaws, said Valerie Day, Haven House’s chief executive officer. A new brand and logo is expected by early November.
The nonprofits, which are Blount County’s only agencies to work with crime victims, have a combined 40 years of experience. Haven House has operated for 30 years, and New Hope — Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center has operated for 10 years.
The two nonprofits have worked together for many years, Day said. “Our missions are closely aligned. We (Day and Trudy Hughes, former New Hope — Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center executive director) always used to throw out the possibility of merging.”
After Hughes resigned in July to take a new position with the East Tennessee Foundation in Knoxville, each organization began to revisit the idea of a merger. Board members met informally to discuss the proposal before reaching to their stakeholders, including elected officials, judicial officials, and law enforcement.
“We received all positive comments,” Day said. “No one had any reservations, because it makes sense for this community. We’re financially stable nonprofits that were born and bred in Blount County. We’re very community focused, and we have similar missions.”
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell praised the merger. “The whole concept is great, and they’re very fortunate to have someone who can step into both roles and not miss a beat. Valerie can handle the additional responsibilities and tasks required of her.”
He further praised the boards’ desire to do more with less resources. “They’re going to cut costs and funnel more resources into helping victims. It’s a win-win for all of Blount County.”SClB“The merger of these two very valuable resources is very beneficial to law enforcement,” said Blount County Sheriff James Berrong. “Oftentimes, domestic violence goes hand-in-hand with child abuse. Having both resources under one umbrella will make it a lot easier for us to help our victims. It is an efficiency of services, and both agencies can assist the other, the victims, and law enforcement a lot easier.”
Many community resources are scattered, and the new nonprofit will be able to use its staff’s experience, skills and training to better serve its clients, Day said. “As a result of this collaboration, we’ll be able to streamline costs and realize savings.”
The savings will result in expanded programs and services, she said. “Victims of child abuse and domestic violence are typically less served and fall through the cracks. After this merger, we’ll be able to take a holistic approach to the family. We’ll be able to serve them, top to bottom.”
The transition team will identify service gaps and outline ways to fill them, Day said. “It’s not a new model having these services under the same umbrella. Haven House worked with children who had been exposed to family violence. We offered a direct line to getting them the services that they needed. New Hope worked with children whose parents had been exposed to domestic violence. They offered a direct line to us. People will have a more seamless experience now.”
The new agency will be a powerhouse, Day said. “We can be a force for the kind of change that our community needs. We don’t want to tolerate family violence. We’re already looking at prevention and education pieces, which we haven’t been able to do due to money. We’ll have more awareness opportunities, and we have to talk about these issues if we’re going to address them.”
One out of three Blount County families experience domestic violence, according to Haven House data. The Blount County E-911 Communications Center received 3,147 calls related to domestic violence last year. The number translates to nearly nine calls per day.
“We’re all connected,” Day said. “When I see things happen down the road from me, it affects me. When you see things happen down your road, it affects you. We’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to serve our families.”
She wanted to publicly thank both boards for having the “courage and tenacity to put together the merger. It’s exciting to be part of a group with such vision. I applaud them.”
Day later thanked the Blount County community. “We’re the community’s agencies. We live and work here. Our volunteers are from here. Without the community’s support, we wouldn’t even have this opportunity.”