Story by: Jan Skutch

A large sign introducing the Family Justice Center on Waters Avenue went up on Monday, preparing the way for a scheduled December grand opening for Chatham County’s one-stop haven for domestic violence victims.

Once up and running, it will bring together five local collaborative partners in one location to better address the issues associated with domestic violence and other related violence against women, and in some cases men.

“We’re still getting furniture and stuff,” said Kristin Fulford, spokeswoman for Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap who has been handling the preparation for the project. “The construction is not completed.”

She said a Dec. 16 grand opening is scheduled, but a Nov. 16 open house will “give the public a sneak preview of what we’re doing.”

The effort, which has been in the talking phase since 2015, will be located in a vacant site in the Waters Avenue Shopping Center, 2005 Waters Ave., which was donated by the city of Savannah.

And because there is no money in the budget for construction, Fulford has had to rely on volunteer labor and donations for community agencies and businesses, such as St. Joseph’s/Candler, the Salvation Army and Livingood’s Appliances & Bedding..

“We had no money in the budget in any way, shape or form,” Fulford said.

To fill the void, a number of church-based groups have sent volunteers to work on site, including Wesley United Monumental Methodist Church’s men’s group, and Asbury Memorial Church’s group called Handy Hands.

In addition, Congregations in Service, a group of local church members, are pitching in as are members of Heap’s staff who picked up paint brushes this past weekend.

And, Fulford said the group has met with the Rev. Morris Brown’s Metropolitan Baptist Church who is building an educational facility across the street and the Eastside Concerned Citizens neighborhood Association this Saturday to be sure everyone is kept abreast of what is going on.

Heap’s office is one of the collaborative partners in the group, joined by the Savannah Police Department, the Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center, Savannah Area Family Emergency (SAFE) Center for Domestic Violence Services, and the Rape Crisis Center of the Coastal Empire.

“It’s not just a building,” Fulford said. “You need a lot more than building to get things done.”

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