Say hello to Paige Flink, executive director of The Family Place; the largest family violence service provider in the Dallas area. Flink discovered her passion for empowering survivors of domestic abuse, while working as an up and coming advertising sales director for a regional magazine.
We wanted to get to know Flink a little better and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions about herself, The Family Place and the people it serves.
Dawn Tongish: Can you begin by telling us about The Family Place?
Paige Flink: The Family Place was created because women were dying at the hands of men who were supposed to love them. Until our organization was established in 1978, there were no services in Dallas to help women and children escape abuse in their homes. Violence against women by a husband or boyfriend was considered a private family issue, not something the public was interested in addressing. There were few laws in Texas to protect a woman whose husband was beating her. Providing a hotline number and safe emergency shelter is where we started. Over the past 36 years, we have worked diligently to change public awareness of the negative impact of family violence on victims and the community as a whole and have added programs as our clients’ needs have changed and the community has recognized the need for the critical services we provide.
Today The Family Place is the largest family violence service provider in the Dallas area. Of 250 shelter beds, we provide 106 of them. We empower victims of family violence by providing safe housing, counseling and skills that create independence while building community engagement and advocating for social change to stop family violence. Our long-term objective is to end the epidemic of relationship violence in our community. Dallas should be a place where children grow up in homes filled with love and respect. Every home a safe home is our goal.
DT: What are your duties at The Family Place?
PF: Ultimately it’s my responsibility to ensure that our doors stay open to keep victims of family violence safe. That involves fundraising, hiring the right people, motivating staff and volunteers, educating the community, and developing programs that ultimately work to prevent family violence and reduce demand for our services in the future. I also see myself as an agent for social justice, from working with the criminal justice system to make improvements that will reduce the danger to victims to staying visible in the media to make sure the voices of victims are heard.
DT: How did you become involved with The Family Place, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the shelters?
PF: In 1989, while working full-time as an advertising sales director for a regional magazine, I founded a young professionals auxiliary called Helping Hands for The Family Place and built the organization to several hundred dedicated members who volunteered for The Family Place’s fundraisers and programs. After the birth of my second child in 1991 I decided to focus my volunteer passion on helping women get back their voice and joined The Family Place as director of Community Education. I knew that educating the community was key to changing the community’s response to family violence, so we started Pepsi KidAround, a children’s music and art festival that became one of The Family Place’s signature fundraising events raising much-needed funds and attracting thousands of families each Labor Day Weekend for more than a decade. Young families that supported us then by attending with their children support us now by buying Partners Cards, writing generous checks and donating to our Resale Shop. We built a family of support, and that is lifesaving and life changing for our clients.
DT: Why do you work in the nonprofit sector?
PF: I know I am so lucky to have a job that gives me fulfilment every day. I want to live a great city where people have a chance to achieve their potential. Family violence is an epidemic in our community and our country that effects many other problems—homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, school dropout and teen pregnancy rates, developmental problems with young children and so much more. I believe that the work we do at The Family Place positively impacts all of these other areas of need and strengthens individuals, families and our community as a whole. The feeling you get from using your skills to make a difference where it really counts is better than any paycheck.
DT: It can be difficult for any nonprofit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat? Family violence is an issue where people know a contribution of any size can make an impact. And,
PF: Dallas has amazingly generous donors. We cast a wide net because it takes every donation from $20 to $200,000 to run The Family Place. We are fortunate to have generous and faithful donors, but I believe they are generous and faithful because we are diligent stewards of their gifts. We make sure we stretch every dollar. We evaluate every program to ensure they’re working, and we constantly make changes to improve them.
DT: How can the people of Dallas and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
PF: We served 12,000 people in 2013, and at least that many will be needing us again this year. Our most expensive programs are our residential programs, emergency shelter and transitional housing. It costs $70 to shelter a mother and child for one night, and we have a lot of nights ahead of us to make ends meet in 2014. Truly every gift helps us welcome those victims to safety with a warm meal, a comfortable bed, and a caring counselor to help start a path to a new life.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at The Family Place?
PF: My most memorable experience at The Family Place was the day we got Governor Rick Perry to pardon a woman who had murdered her horribly abusive husband in self defense. This woman had been on probation for many years and had raised the daughter who her husband had targeted for abuse into a healthy young adult. Then, immigration laws changed and she was about to be deported from a country where she had legally lived for 20 years. The only way she stay was if the charge was pardoned. And, amazingly, it was. That was quite a day.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work each day?
PF: I check the shelter census to see how many people we are housing and feeding and if we have any beds available for new clients who call needing our help. Then next, of course, I read my emails.