by Max Brantley
Safe Places: The Center for Healing and Hope closed abruptly today and sent employees home.The agency served victims of sexual abuse, family violence and child abuse with services and a hot line. Its offices are at 1609 Broadway.
Kathy Manis Findley, the agency director, reached by phone in Florida where she said she was on a personal trip, said the decision by the agency board came as a surprise to her. She said the agency had been struggling financially, both because of difficult economic conditions and loss of support from some previous funders, whom she declined to name.
Dale Sharp, a retired businessman, is the board chair, Findley said. I haven't been able to reach him. She said she was aware of no precipitating cause for the closure, but said the agency was in the process of an audit.
The closure puts six people — four full-time and two-partime — out of work.
"The staff is devastated," Findley said. "They are so professional and they worked so hard." She said the agency helped 4,000 people in 2011. She said the Board "is going to try to work and see if we can come up like a phoenix from the ashes." Volunteers are still answering phones and attempting to direct people in need of services to other agencies, she said.
Findley, who started the agency in 2002 with a $3,000 grant, received a community leadership award last year from the FBI. She also has been honored as a top nonprofit executive by Arkansas Business and featured in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette High Profile section.