Highlights From Our Past

1977 – The Women’s Survival Center
1978 – The first women’s employment program
1980 – The first substance abuse treatment program designed specifically for women
1980 – The first emergency home repair program for elders
1985 – Changed name to The Centre for Women
1997 – Founding partner with the Central Florida Behavioral Health Network
1999 – Founding partner to establish Elderlink Consortium
1999 – Assumed management of Family Service Association
2001 – Built and opened The Centre for Girls
2002 – Attained accreditation from The Joint Commission
2003 – One of 10 Finalists in the First National Business Plan Competition for NonProfit Organizations by the Yale School of Management
2003 – One of four organizations to be selected by Oprah’s Angels Network to receive a contribution
2006  Purchased 12,000 sq. ft. warehouse to increase capabilities of SHIP
2006 – First recipient of Humana’s Tampa Bay Benefits Award of $100,000
2007 – Approved by State to participate in BRITE research project
2013 – The Women’s Business Centre Opens
2014 – The Centre for Women Becomes The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women
2014 – The Centre holds Inaugural Waves of Change Luncheon with Gloria Steinem
2014 – The SBA Funds The Women’s Business Centre and it becomes part of a National Network of WBCS.
2015 – Women Building Futures Launches to Train Women in Construction
2018 – The Centre for Women Hosts the National Conference of Women’s Business Centers.
2018 – Florida Blue Funds Wellness Emprise Initiative for College Students
2018 – The Centre for Women Opens Office at HCC Brandon
2019 – Employment Services Renamed Tampa Bay Works for Women
2020 – Girls Services Relocates to Hyde Park as Centre for Girls Closes
2020 – Tampa Bay Business Journal Designates The Centre for Women as one of the best nonprofits in Tampa.

During the 1970s and the era of the Equal Rights Amendment, several fledgling organizations serving women developed in the area. There was discussion among the Boards about combining all their grassroots efforts and ultimately, two organizations prevailed, The Spring and the Women’s Survival Center, later known as The Centre for Women.

Led by then State Representative Helen Gordon Davis, a staunch proponent of women and minority rights, the founding group of volunteers wanted a place that could help women deal with the emotional and financial traumas that occurred as a result of divorce, widowhood, or separation. The typical consumer was a woman in her forties, who had not been employed in many years, if ever. She had two children and her income had dropped over 70% as a result of the change in her marital status. Both counseling and education programs were needed to help the women work through their feelings, face the economic realities and move ahead to become self-sufficient.

With small federal grants and contributions, services started in July of 1978, and the passage of state Displaced Homemaker legislation several months later (which Representative Davis co-sponsored) provided more stable, on-going support for these services.

Counselors began to notice the prevalence of dependency on tranquilizers among the displaced homemaker population. The Centre Board and staff were ahead of their time in 1980 when they created the first gender-specific, chemical dependency program for women in this area. Though initially designed to address problems with prescribed medication, the program grew, changed with the times and population and today, Project Recovery treats addiction and dependency to both legal and illegal substances.

It was also in 1980 that our home repair program for elderly homeowners was established. Created to preserve the independence of the elderly when both their physical and financial resources were declining, the Senior Home Improvement Program, known by the acronym SHIP was also developed to provide a source of employment for displaced homemakers who enjoyed working outdoors and who wanted greater income potential by learning carpentry skills.

Various funding sources were developed to support these three types of services, and they remained The Centre’s core services for a number of years.

In 1992, we transported our years of experience preparing women for employment to targeted neighborhoods. We were flexible in developing and designing services to specifically address the needs of low-income women, both the working poor and the welfare population. These women had complex problems. They had experienced limited personal success and had fewer internal resources and support from which to draw. We understood that self-sufficiency was more than just getting a job. Moving from dependency to a working lifestyle is not a change that occurs overnight. Even with strong motivation, learning new behaviors is a process wrought with impediments and barriers. Life-skills instruction, coaching, and emotional support must continue long after the first paycheck arrives.

Formal collaboration has significantly increased the capacity of our substance abuse services. The best example of this is the Family Centered Substance Abuse Services (FCSAS) which also includes DACCO and the Child Abuse Council. Funded by the Children’s Board, FCSAS has been recognized as an outstanding collaborative. As a result of this collaborative, comprehensive assessment of her children, developmental childcare and personal tutoring from developmental professionals on child rearing issues. Our former main competitor, DACCO, is now our daily partner in this and other collaborative efforts.

The home repair program has expanded through the years and is now the largest program of The Centre. It currently has multiple crews who provide a variety of home repair and rehab services such as replacing locks and windows, patching roofs, rebuilding floors and walls, repairing leaky faucets, installing weather stripping, unstopping plumbing and replacing broken toilets. An increasing service is the installation of wheelchair ramps and other retrofits to make the house able to accommodate a wheelchair or walker. The purpose of these efforts is to preserve a safe living environment that will allow the elderly to live independently as long as possible. While at the home, the crew looks for other needs such as referral to Meals on Wheels. SHIP is also a State Certified Construction business and can provide facility maintenance, commercial build-outs, remodeling, fire and water damage repairs, single family and multi-family rehabilitation through social enterprise.

ElderLink, offers non-medical, in-home services to low-income seniors to help them live safely and independently in their own homes. Developed to provide seasonal housecleaning and major yard work, this program’s purpose is to improve the health and safety of the elder’s home environment. ElderLink provides painting, minor repairs and yard clean up, by volunteer teams, and often diverts code violations. In addition, BRITE is a research program through the State of Florida that offers free assessments and health education programs for men and women over 55 who may have problems with medication misuse or other substance misuse problems. Services are also available to individuals 18 and older.

In 1995 at the request of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court, The Centre entered a new arena and developed services for girls who had come to the attention of law enforcement. An increasing number of girls were being seen in the juvenile justice system. The interventions that had been effective for years with boys were not working, there were no existing gender specific services for girls in the community, and the courts assumption was that The Centre for Women would know how to work with girls. We initiated an interim program for the Court while we began to research what issues were important to girls, what type of assistance they thought would be helpful and a design to which they would positively respond.

The literature had recently begun to report the importance of gender specific services for girls, but the nuts and bolts of the services we created for girls were developed from running after school discussion groups for middle school girls for over a year. The emphasis of girls’ services is prevention, and the methods of intervention are psycho-educational groups, discussion groups for parents, family activities and a recently constructed facility, The Centre for Girls. Through the various programs, the girls we serve range in age from ten to eighteen.

The Centre for Women assumed the management and control of another nonprofit, Family Service Association of Greater Tampa. The Family Service Board determined that the organization was too small to afford an independent infrastructure, and felt The Centre had a comparable philosophy and complementary services. Family Service, the second oldest charitable organization in Hillsborough County, was established in 1907. Though its name and role changed numerous times through these many years, it has become a highly respected counseling organization for the past thirty years. In addition to its sliding fee scale, Family Service also has Employee Assistance contracts and is approved by a number of insurance carriers.

All of our programs promote independence and self-sufficiency, but in different ways, depending on the needs of the target population. Along the way, we realized that our current name created confusion –and research validated this — among those we serve and those who support our organization. So, in 2010, it was time to revisit our name so that we could better convey our mission, our programs, and our compelling story. The updated name, The Centre, reflects and preserves our deep history and good reputation in the Tampa Bay community while acknowledging our wide range of services and success in changing lives.

The Centre is a nonprofit organization that serves over 5,000 women, girls, families and seniors each year with programs such as individual and family counseling, employment preparation, small business development, and home repairs and rehabs for low-income seniors.

About the House

Representative Davis believed a warm environment would enhance self-esteem and promote feelings of worthiness for the women during this troubled time in their lives. She solicited contributions for a down payment, and the organization bought what the Bureau of Historic Places later designated as the Ward-Taliaferro House (c. 1895). Occurring prior to the restoration of the Hyde Park area, such a purchase would not be affordable today. Supplemented by labor of the Board members, local architect, Jan Abell, oversaw sufficient renovation to make the building safe and useable. In the late 1980s, The Centre received several historic preservation grants to restore the exterior of the building, which has been described as one of the �best examples of neo-classical architecture in Tampa.� Through the years, women have remarked about how comfortable the house is, and that they often feel support just walking in the door.

Remembering Helen Gordon Davis

Champion of the Disenfranchised and Beloved Founder of The Centre for Women

It is with profound sadness that we share the news of the passing of our beloved founder, Helen Gordon Davis. As we celebrate her life, we are filled with immense gratitude for her remarkable foresight as a champion for civil and women’s rights. She stood up for all women, particularly those who had no political voice or social influence.