Safe Alliance is a nonprofit United Way member agency with over 100 years of service to individuals and families in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Union and South Iredell counties.
The history of Safe Alliance began on March 21, 1909, when a group of Charlotte business and religious leaders formed Associated Charities. Funds for Associated Charities came from one hundred community leaders who pledged $25 a year to support its operation. The agency worked to help “the floating needy resident.”
Associated Charities took formal structure and developed a board composed of Charlotte’s business pioneers including J. B. Ivey, R. M. Pound, J. M. Harry and Thomas Glasgow.
Throughout the twenties, the services expanded to include women and children who had been “deserted” and victims of tuberculosis. The organization also formed the Christmas Bureau program during these years.
The Depression marked the creation of the first government agencies to handle relief, and the emergence of a concept called the Community Chest. In 1932 Associated Charities changed its name to Family Service Association and established the following statement of purpose: “To perform charity within the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, NC; to do family casework; to cooperate and assist families; to aid minors, aged and all other individuals; and in general to do any and all things such as family service associations, as organized in the United States now do.”
The agency moved its offices to121 E. Third Street, its location for the next 30 years. The most significant event of the forties was the merger of Family Service Association with the Children’s Service Bureau to become Family and Children’s Service. The Bureau, founded by the Junior League, provided adoptive foster care services.
This decade of the fifties saw continued growth for Family and Children’s Service with the support of the United Fund. The agency’s annual budget climbed toward $100,000 and adoption became a major focus with 50 to 75 children placed with adoptive parents each year.
The use of federal funds to address poverty issues began in the sixties, under the auspices of the Charlotte Area Fund. The agency developed a three-year demonstration project, ‘Project Outreach’ whereby professionally-trained staff members were housed within neighborhoods. The agency continued its belief in the need for bringing services close to the people in poverty areas by participating in the Model Cities project and service to unmarried mothers through Teen Age Parents Services (TAPS). In December, 1972 this program was transferred to the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services. Later that decade, several business leaders developed a consumer credit counseling program to assist individuals experiencing budgeting and debt repayment difficulties. In 1969, Consumer Credit Counseling Service merged with Family and Children’s Service, becoming the first such merger nationally and the first credit counseling program to be funded by United Way.
The decade closed with the long-awaited opening of the United Way building on Brevard Street where the agency was housed for the next 30 years.
1970′s – With dwindling demand for adoption services, the agency closed its adoption program and addressed new community needs.
The decade began with the launching of a Family Life Enrichment program to serve as the educational arm of the agency. An initial project for this division was the development of family crisis intervention training for officers of the Charlotte Police Department and Mecklenburg County Police Department. Family life enrichment counselors offered a variety of workshops to families and children. Another special project was to teach funeral home directors skills on grief and loss.
On January 1, 1973 the agency began an affiliate relationship with Family Counseling Service of Gaston County. In July, 1979 Family Counseling Service of Gaston County became an independent operation.
In 1975, responding to a request from the board of the Neighborhood Medical Clinic, the agency placed a family counselor in this nonprofit clinic designed to serve low-income families in a target population area. The family counselor operated with the medical staff as part of a total family treatment team, and used central office resources for support. Having demonstrated the validity of this approach, the agency ended the project in 1977 with the Neighborhood Medical Clinic, which assumed responsibility for this service.
On August 1, 1977 the agency opened its first satellite office in Union County and services over the years included consumer credit counseling, employee assistance, family counseling, rape crisis and child abuse prevention services to the residents of Union County at the downtown Monroe location.
At the request of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee, the agency launched a pilot project to serve victims of violent crime. The project eventually grew into the agency’s Victim Assistance program.
A local Big Brothers/Big Sisters program to serve the needs of children in single-parent families was started by interested citizens in 1972. On December 1, 1978 Big Brothers/Big Sisters became a program of the agency. The success of this program resulted in Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte becoming an independent agency in 2001.
As the seventies come to a close, the agency responded to the community’s desire to provide services to victims of family violence. In cooperation with the Salvation Army, the agency established a temporary emergency shelter and counseling service for battered women and their children. Upon recommendation by the Social Planning Council, the agency assumed full responsibility for The Shelter, for battered women and their children, December 1, 1979.
In 1982 Rape Crisis, an all-volunteer, 24 hour service merged with Victim Assistance to provide comprehensive sexual assault services including professional counseling and hospital support.
Also in 1982 the development of the Family Therapy Training Institute by the Family Counseling program trained community professionals in structural family therapy, thus improving the quality of treatment available for families.
In 1983 the board of directors voted to change the name of the agency to United Family Services, in order to give a better description of the variety of services offered.
In 1985 United Family Services launched the Court Advocate Program with volunteers who accompany clients to criminal court.
In 1986 the Victim Assistance Misdemeanor unit was established through a federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. Legislation was passed allowing pro se restraining orders and Victim Assistance domestic violence services were expanded to include civil as well as criminal court advocacy.
With the formation of ADAM (Against Domestic Assaults by Men), United Family Services provided a treatment program for men who abused their intimate partners. In 1989, responsibility for this area of service was assumed by Mecklenburg County under its mental health program.
In 1984 a pilot project for Custody and Visitation Dispute Mediation Program was implemented in conjunction with Mecklenburg County District Court system to help divorced and separated parents develop parenting plans that were in the best interest of their children. In 1991, the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina approved legislation establishing the mediation of custody and visitation disputes as a program to be implemented statewide. In 1992, United Family Services assisted with the transfer of its program to the auspices of the 26th Judicial District (Mecklenburg County District Court).
The addition of a communications director in 1985 enabled the agency to develop and coordinate the agency’s public information program.
In1986 the formation of a specialized Misdemeanor Unit of Victim Assistance, with primary focus on victims of domestic violence enabled victims to receive support with the legal system.
The implementation of a full-service employee assistance program in 1991 expanded services to local businesses and organizations. This grew out of the agency’s experience in providing such services for over 10 years through national contracts with Family Service America, now called the Alliance for Families & Children.
The merger of Rape Crisis/Child Abuse Prevention with Union County services in 1986 expanded the range of services available to Union County citizens.
In 1988, Ed Nadelman retired as Executive Director after 25 years. Jim Johnson was promoted to Executive Director.
In February, 1992 United Family Services established services in Cabarrus County in response to community request. The office was originally supported through a grant by the Cannon Foundation, United Way and agency funds.
Project Outreach was formed through a collaboration of the agency with the Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium to provide in-home counseling services to those living with AIDS and to their caregivers (Project Outreach). Services continued until 2003 when Mecklenburg AIDS Project assumed these services.
In 1994 Big Brothers Big Sisters collaborated with Hospice of Charlotte, Inc. to provide adult volunteers as mentors for children in families with a terminally ill parent from complications related to AIDS.
Family Counseling and Charlotte area churches collaborated to offer The Hope Brigade, a program for children, teenagers and parents affected by HIV/AIDS.
In 1995 the implementation of services for family and friends of homicide victims in the Victim Assistance division was made possible by a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant.
Heart To Heart, a teenage theatre group co-sponsored by The Shelter for Battered Women and The Children’s Theater was created to educate teens about the realities of dating violence, through improvisational drama.
Healthy Transitions for Families was designed to help families, especially those with children, through transition, such as separation and divorce. This continued as the Partners in Parenting (PIP) program delivering 4 hours of mandated education to separating parents.
The Family of the Year contest and award was implemented.
The Shelter for Battered Women collaborated with the Housing Authority to provide on-site counseling services and assistance to women in domestic violence/abusive situations.
The Shelter for Battered Women collaborated with the Mecklenburg County Bar Association to offer Project 100, a program where lawyers volunteered to assist domestic violence victims in court.
Consumer Credit Counseling expanded to include housing services. The success of this effort resulted in a contract with the City of Charlotte to expand services.
The exploration of a fund development program was completed and the first United Family Services board fund-raising campaign was held in November-December. Holiday direct mail campaigns were conducted for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and The Shelter for Battered Women.
In July the Program for Incarcerated Women began as a collaboration of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Department and United Family Services. Funded by a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission, the Sheriff’s department contracted with UFS to provide a full time domestic violence staff person. Services included educational sessions for inmates, providing domestic violence counseling and providing training for Department staff.
A focus on community initiatives in 1998 launched the Building Youth in Southside Communities project, the centerpiece of which was Families and Schools Together (FAST). Initial funding for the Southside Homes project was provided by the Foundation for the Carolinas. Other new efforts included placing a family counselor at the Johnston YMCA and the Ada Jenkins center in Davidson, as well as both a family counselor and Big Brothers Big Sisters counselor at the Bethlehem Center. The remaining Community Education staff moved to the Great Aunt Stella Center.
In September, the development office was established with the hiring of the first development director.
The Men for Change fund-raising and education campaign was the first ever of its kind in Charlotte raising over $60,000 for The Shelter for Battered Women. This all male volunteer effort is focused on raising funds and educating men about their roles in ending domestic violence.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters moved to the Urban League Building.
In April 1999, Child Abuse Prevention Services was established in the Union County office to increase community awareness of child abuse and neglect and develop prevention programs.
The Cabarrus County office staffed a part-time Consumer Credit counselor and a Spanish-speaking family counselor at the Logan Center, with funding from United Way and the Cabarrus County Foundation.
The agency celebrated 90 years of service with a reception at the new Mint Museum of Craft & Design in uptown Charlotte.
Through the partnership with United Way of Central Carolinas and United Way of South Iredell United Family Services opened a Consumer Credit Counseling & Housing Services office in Mooresville/South Iredell.
The Heart To Heart teen theatre expanded its reach into the community with the addition of a second troupe.
The Shelter for Battered Women celebrated its 20th anniversary with a reception and volunteer awards presentation at the Children’s Theatre.
Jim Johnson retired in December after serving 27 years, as Executive Director. Sharon Thacker served as Interim Director.
In April, Union County partnered with other community agencies to form the Union County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), a multi-disciplinary, team providing coordinated, timely, compassionate therapeutic services to ensure a transition from victim to survivor for individuals whose lives are impacted by sexual assault.
United Family Services began offering domestic violence advocacy services evenings at the Magistrate’s office.
In June Mark J. Pierman joined United Family Services as President/Chief Executive Officer.
November, an office was opened in Huntersville, featuring Consumer Credit Counseling, Employee Assistance and Family Counseling.
In December, the administrative offices, Consumer Credit Counseling, Employee Assistance and Family Counseling programs moved from the United Way Building to 200 N. Sharon Amity Road.
After more than two decades of serving area youth with United Family Services, Big Brothers/Big Sisters became an independent agency at the end of the 2000 calendar year.
In 2001 two separate programs, Family Counseling and Community Education merged to form Counseling & Education.
Community Building & Neighborhood Development, a project in the works for several years under the Community Education service area, became its own program.
United Family Services held the first Art with Heart cocktail art auction fundraiser for the Shelter for Battered Women.
The Women’s Trauma Recovery Program began with funding from ABC and Sisters of Mercy. This program provided substance abuse assessments and specialized individual and group counseling to address the dual issues of domestic violence and substance abuse. Additionally trainings were available to a multitude of community service providers.
In the fall, Union County staffed a Certified Counselor to provide Housing Delinquency services.
In an effort to better serve the needs of families and children in the community, United Family Services joined eight other human services agencies and community leaders in celebrating the success of a capital campaign to fund The Carol Grotnes Belk Children & Family Services. The campaign, led by Hugh McColl and Ed Crutchfield, raised more than $9 million to finance construction of the facility which had been in planning stages for several years. Groundbreaking at the site at Fifth & Davidson, in Charlotte, occurred on January 7.
United Family Services partnered with Carolinas Medical to offer the Domestic Violence Healthcare Project in October. The project provided on site domestic violence services at Carolinas Medical including safety assessment, safety planning, photo injury documentation, information and referral to domestic violence services. In addition, the project educated and trained hospital professionals to screen for domestic violence.
At the request of Cabarrus Victim Assistance Network, United Family Services assumed responsibility for Rape Crisis services in Cabarrus County.
In March the Charlotte office moved to the new Children & Family Services UFS at 601 E. Fifth Street, Suite 400 housing Administration, Counseling & Education, Consumer Credit & Housing and Victim Assistance Felony Unit.
The Domestic Violence Service area was formed to centralize all domestic violence services under one service area. These services include The Shelter for Battered Women, Victim Assistance Domestic Violence, the Domestic Violence Healthcare Project and the Program for Incarcerated Women.
United Family Services transitioned its South Tryon Community Building & Neighborhood Development project to the residents of Brookhill Village and Southside Homes.
Counseling and Education started providing Anger Management groups for adults, these groups provided participants with skills and knowledge in the prevention, containment and resolution of anger.
The Tree House Child Advocacy Center was launched in Union County providing a neutral, child-friendly location for multi-disciplinary team reviews, forensic and/or medical interviews, advocacy and support for victims and non-offending family members, crisis intervention and counseling, multi-disciplinary team case reviews, prevention education and community awareness.
The United Family Services Domestic Violence Latina Program was initiated with bi-lingual staff providing services at all sites as well as outreach in the Latino community.
In January, DVHP merged with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Forensic Medicine Program in a collaborative partnership program between Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Mecklenburg County Court System, Carolinas Healthcare System, Presbyterian Healthcare, Queens University of Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College.
The Clinical Supervision Center was created to provide the supervision requirements to enable master level social workers and counselors to earn their LCSW and LPC licenses.
In July, United Family Services began providing nonresidential domestic violence services in the Huntersville office including safety assessment, safety planning, counseling, support groups, information/referral and photo injury documentation.
In August, UFS entered a collaborative contractual agreement with Mecklenburg County Social Services and South Tryon Community Development Corporation to provide a range of parent education services to parents of children who have lost or are in jeopardy of losing their parental rights due to child abuse or neglect. Services were provided in the South Tryon Community.
The Cabarrus County office continued providing mental health and credit counseling/housing services. They also collaborated with North East Medical Center to provide acute Rape Crisis services for child sexual assault cases.
In February, United Family Services completed a shelter feasibility study in partnership with Mecklenburg County. The study found that 120+ shelter beds were needed in Mecklenburg County. United Family Services initiated planning to add additional shelter beds.
In May the Union County office moved to a larger location to accommodate their growing needs.
In December the North Region was split into two separate regions due to the growing demand for services, the Mooresville-Lake Norman Region office and the Cabarrus County Region office. This restructuring allowed each office to better respond to the unique needs of each community. The growth in the Cabarrus County office also prompted the expansion to accommodate the need for additional counseling offices. The renovation added 1,000 square feet providing three additional offices, a larger Play Therapy Room, a larger reception area and First Impressions office space. The renovations were completed in May 2008.
In May, the UFS Board of Directors approved a Capital Campaign to build a larger domestic violence facility for women and children with Crandall Bowles and Jennifer Roberts agreeing to co-chair the campaign. The agency hired Capstone Advancement Partners as the campaign consultant and committees for fundraising, education and building were formed.
In June United Family Services opened a mortgage default call center in the Charlotte office staffed with 8 counselors. This HUD funded initiative was aimed at reaching out to the thousands of homeowners in the 4-county region (Mecklenburg, Union, Iredell and Cabarrus) who were losing their homes every year without ever having spoken to anyone about possible alternatives to foreclosure.
The Mooresville-Lake Norman Office outgrew its office and moved to new offices in Cornelius. The new space offered additional counseling offices, a larger reception area and improved accessibility to clients traveling from Southern Iredell County. This move was completed in June.
This year United Family Services also developed the Legal Representation Project to assist victims of domestic violence with civil court proceedings (domestic violence protective orders, divorce, separation, child custody, and child support). The program began with a part-time attorney funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission whose primary responsibility was to recruit and train local attorneys to assist victims in court.
2009 was a year of change at United Family Services as the organization celebrated its 100th Anniversary of providing services in our community. Strategic planning culminated in a new mission statement:
“Providing Hope and Solutions for People in Crisis”
and an internal restructuring of programs to enhance mission achievement. The domestic violence, homicide and rape crisis services were combined into a cohesive Victim Services program that provided crisis intervention, legal representation and short-term residential services to people who had experienced sexual assault, intimate partner battering, child maltreatment or loss of a loved one to homicide. Counseling for sexual assault victims was combined with all other forms of counseling into Clinical Services, providing consistent services across all sites. Economic Independence continued to offer budget counseling, debt repayment plans, reverse mortgage counseling, mortgage foreclosure counseling and bankruptcy counseling.
United Family Services’ commitment to the Children and Family Services Center collaboration was strengthened when six agencies in the building formed a managed service organization called Shared Services. This expanded the collaboration of shared space and technology to include the back office functions of human resources and finance.
The Legal Representation Project expanded to include a full-time attorney and part-time paralegal through a grant provided by the Women’s Impact Fund. Local attorneys from multiple firms provided pro bono legal representation for clients. Additionally, the attorneys supervised students from the Charlotte School of Law, increasing UFS’ capacity to serve additional clients while training the next generation of attorneys in our community.
UFS received a two year grant totaling $65,078 from Kate B. Reynolds for the community-based counseling program at the Ada Jenkins Center. The grant allowed UFS to serve 200 children and adults who would otherwise be unable to access or afford counseling services. Services were available in both English and Spanish.
The Capital Campaign Steering Committee was formed and began meeting in January. In February the “silent” phase of the campaign kicked off with staff and board making the initial campaign gifts and pledges totaling over $265,000. The Building Committee engaged John R. McAdams to begin preliminary site testing in the spring. A land appraisal was completed and UFS entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with the Charlotte Rescue Mission to purchase the West Boulevard property. UFS worked with Carolina PR to create collateral campaign materials including a compelling video featuring domestic violence survivors. Jenkins Peer was selected to provide architectural services and RT Dooley/Balfour Beatty committed to provide construction services at cost yielding an estimated savings of $200,000. UFS held two community meetings in the West Boulevard Corridor and received a welcoming response from the neighborhood. Zoning determination was received from the City shortly thereafter. The campaign was announced to the public on November 7th at the UFS 100 year anniversary gala. Later in November UFS held its first cultivation event for the campaign. At the end of the year several major gifts were received from the City Housing Trust Fund, Wachovia-Wells Fargo, the Levine Foundation and Bank of America.
In early 2010 the first draft of the new shelter schematic renderings was completed. These were revised several times and reached the final version by summer. Meanwhile UFS continued holding cultivation events in homes as well as two larger events that were sponsored by Wachovia-Wells Fargo. By mid-year UFS received a large gift from the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency and the campaign surpassed the $5 million mark. The land was purchased in July and an official groundbreaking was held in conjunction with the Charlotte Rescue Mission in October to celebrate the initiation of site work. In November UFS held its first legal cultivation event for women attorney’s and created the Barrister’s Society, a giving circle uniquely designed for attorneys donating to the campaign.
In July, Mark Pierman stepped down as President/CEO of the Agency after 10 years of Service. Mark was instrumental in the growth of UFS during the 1st decade of the 21st century and played a key role in the Shared Services model the agency adopted in 2009 and the launching of the capital campaign for the new Shelter outlined above. Jean Davis, a member of the Board and on the Executive Committee, resigned her Board position, to serve as interim President/CEO while a search for the new CEO was conducted. The search was completed in late 2010.
Phil Kline joined the agency January 3, 2011 as President/CEO. The capital campaign continued throughout 2011 and vertical construction began at the end of the year. In spring 2011 the agency implemented an intensive strategic planning process. This work reaffirmed some assumptions and helped crystalize the necessary next steps to build an even stronger organization. United Family Services’ depth of experience and professional, evidenced-based treatment and counseling programs for trauma and victim services were determined to become the organization’s key focus areas. United Family Services also analyzed its economic independence services and decided that, while these were important, they may be housed more efficiently and effectively elsewhere. United Family Services approached Community Link to consider operating these services and the transfer was initiated.
United Family Services determined that moving forward the focus would be on providing a continuum of critical crisis services to those victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse or homicide in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, South Iredell and Union counties. It was decided that the agency would continue to offer 24 hour crisis lines, shelter, a children’s advocacy center, safety planning services, hospital accompaniment, case management, systems advocacy, support groups, court advocacy/accompaniment and legal representation. Additionally United Family Services would continue expanding trauma informed counseling for those struggling with emotional crisis and deliver these services to individuals, couples and families. Additionally the agency would continue to provide educational and prevention programs as well as institutional advocacy efforts.
In 2012 United Family Services continues implementing the strategic plan and Economic Independence Services was transferred to Community Link in February. Additionally the Partners in Parenting Program was transferred to the Children’s Home Society in March.
The capital campaign to build the new domestic violence shelter continued and over $8.5 million was raised toward the $10.6 million campaign goal. Vertical construction was initiated at the end of December 2011.
On November 27, 2012, United Family Services announced its new brand: Safe Alliance, Where Hope & Healing Begin.
The new Clyde and Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter opened in January 2013. Safe Alliance continued growing its trauma-based services and also developed a targeted marketing plan to strengthen its Employee Assistance Program and clinical services. The Board of Directors decided to initiate a new giving society to recognize major donors and the Lotus Society was introduced in August. Safe Alliance also had its first annual luncheon in October with keynote speakers Ron and Jan Kimble.
Two of the agency signature events – Art with Heart and Men for Change – celebrated significant milestones with both reaching $1 million raised for Safe Alliance in 2014. The counseling team participated in a number of learning collaboratives, strengthening their skills to offer innovative, evidence-based solutions to adults and children seeking therapeutic services. The rape crisis team changed its name to the Sexual Trauma Resource Center to better describe the myriad of comprehensive crisis and longer term trauma counseling and advocacy services for adult and child survivors of sexual assault. The domestic violence shelter continued a second year of strong operations in its new facility and the shelter was paid off in November. At the end of the year Phil Kline, President & CEO, announced that he would be retiring from the Safe Alliance and the Board of Directors appointed Karen Parker as the new President & CEO effective January 1st, 2015.
In 2015 the Safe Alliance Board of Directors and Senior Leadership made a strategic decision to focus on sexual assault and domestic violence services in Mecklenburg County and Lake Norman. Safe Alliance transferred the Tree House Children’s Advocacy Center and Sexual Trauma Resource Center in Union County to our sister organization Turning Point. We transferred our Sexual Trauma Resource Center in Cabarrus County to another sister organization, Esther House. Companies who contracted with us for the Employee Assistance Program were given the opportunity to make a seamless transition to another provider. Safe Alliance identified a comprehensive list of appropriate general counseling options for our departing clients. Major components of the transition were completed by summer 2015.
This decision represents the crystallization of Safe Alliance’s mission to provide hope and healing to people in crisis and the evolution of our strategy and direction. We have chosen to proactively focus on Mecklenburg County and Lake Norman in order to ensure that we are delivering the highest quality services thus yielding the greatest impact for our clients and the community, while maintaining our financial stability for years to come. We look forward to building upon the successful foundation of our Clyde & Ethel Dickson Domestic Violence Shelter where we assist over 900 victims and their children in imminent danger each year; our Sexual Trauma Resource Center which provides 24 hour hotline services to over 800 individuals; and our Victim Assistance/Legal Representation Program which provides court advocacy and free legal representation to over 4,000 victims of domestic and sexual violence each year.