Hard Beginnings Ending in Hope

Feb 8, 2023

Hard Beginnings Ending in Hope

By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

After Shelley and her children escaped a domestic violence situation, they made it to the Crisis Control Center in Durant where they were welcomed into a haven of rest and safety. The crisis center offered Shelley the resources she needed to start life over.

After enrolling in classes to become an EMT, Shelley gained her certification, and learned to manage her own finances. She was able to create a new home for herself and her children.

Shelley’s story is one of many with traumatic beginnings that end in hope for people who turn to the Crisis Control Center. The shelter provides preventative health services, court advocacy, and behavioral health services. They serve four counties in Oklahoma: Bryan, Johnston, Atoka, and Marshall.

The Durant Crisis Control Center was established thirty-five years ago by Norita Walker. Wife of a police chief and a reserve police officer herself, Norita accepted the call to found the center, diving headlong into fundraising. The City of Durant donated the initial facility, the retired Haney Hospital.

After nearly twenty years, the Crisis Control Center came to a crossroads: the upkeep on the old building outweighed the cost of replacing it. Norita, still the director, spearheaded efforts to raise funds for the comfortable new facility that now offers a haven to fourteen women and children at any given time. The City of Durant donated the land for the new shelter.

Retiring in 2021 at 77 years old, Norita passed the baton to one person she knew had the passion and experience to fill the role—her daughter, Eileen Meadows.

Eileen had already been involved in offering help to domestic violence victims, volunteering and serving 17 years on the board at the crisis center in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Now the director of the center in Durant, Eileen takes the work one day at a time.

“It’s a very demanding, emotional job,” Eileen says. “It takes passion. My inspiration comes from the community because there are so many people and areas that want to help.”

The crisis center serves 400-600 women and children annually. Being capable of serving so many people in need is crucial to fulfilling the mission of the shelter but having guests in and out of the house constantly wears facilities down fast. Eileen applied for and received a grant from the Texoma Health Foundation to refresh the Crisis Control Center.

“We were able to get rid of the bunk beds, which were difficult for injured women to climb into, and replace them with twin beds,” Eileen says. “We installed an overhead microwave in the kitchen and other smaller appliances. Imagine how (often) we go through washers and dryers.”

The funds also help with outreach, recent federal budget cuts for their employees, and keeping up continued education for the center’s crossed-trained advocates. These hard-workers wear all the hats at the Crisis Control Center.

“But we’re not fighting this battle on our own,” Eileen says. “Organizations like the Texoma Health Foundation are there to keep us motivated. They recognize that ‘yes, here we are, this is what we’re doing. We’re trying to do good for our own community.’ Once you get that validation, that’s what keeps your passion and your drive going.”

Note: Shelley’s name was changed to protect the innocent. We checked with Eileen for permission to use a few details to tell the story without identifying this family. We realize the need to be sensitive in sharing these stories.