Working towards a non-violent community
The history, mission, and services of Marshfield’s Personal Development Center
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Personal Development Center, Inc. (PDC) is a non-profit agency that works with victims of domestic violence, connecting them with resources and advocating for them through education and case management. The PDC was established in 1977 and currently serves all of Marshfield as well as all of Clark County.
Executive Director of the PDC Renee Schulz-Stangl said that the center started as kind of an offshoot of the women’s movement that was taking place in the ‘70s.
“They (the founders) were going to do classes on empowerment and kind of self esteem and some of these types of things for women, and it was very quickly that they realized that they were coming across women who were not safe,” Schulz-Stangl said. “These ladies (the founders) actually started PDC by bringing these women who were in an unsafe home environment into their homes and providing shelter. They started out the agency in their basement with a small filing cabinet and a telephone.”
Schulz-Stangl said the goal of PDC is to “strengthen individuals, strengthen families, empower them to be able to explore all their options and make decisions that are best for them and for their children.”
PDC provides services for adults, youth, and the elder population and also serves victims of sexual abuse. They facilitate visitations and exchanges as well. PDC works as an intermediary in instances where parents may not be able to exchange children for weekend visits without conflict. The organization also supervises visitations between parents and children when necessary to ensure the safety of the children.
PDC receives referrals for cases from multiple entities in the community. Law enforcement, schools, counselors, and medical facilities all refer cases to PDC.
“The strength of our services and what we do is really based on the relationships that we have in the community,” Schulz-Stangl said.
She added that for a domestic violence victim, a physician’s office may be one of the few places they are safe to seek help.
“For domestic violence it really is not as much about the violence that occurs in the relationships but the power and control that occurs in those relationships,” Schulz-Stangl said. “One of the few opportunities that (the victim) may be able to get somewhere privately by themselves is during doctor appointments, during physician appointments. That could very well be a time where they would disclose that they’re not safe or seek out some help.”
As part of the advocacy that PDC provides to adult victims, they help develop a safety plan, locate an emergency shelter, obtain a restraining order if necessary, assist with legal issues, and also assist with long-range planning and goal setting.
“We want to be able to help them overcome all of those obstacles so that they can get out of that abusive relationship and then move forward outside of that relationship,” Schulz-Stangl said. She added that services are provided for as long as they are requested.
Similar services are offered for victims of sexual assault, including medical advocacy, finding an emergency shelter, and assistance in navigating through legal issues.
Services for children include working on skills to gain more control over unsafe environments. PDC also offers support groups, connects children with resources, and helps them identify the characteristics of a healthy relationship and ways to cope with bullying.
Victims of elder abuse can also come to PDC to receive aid with a multitude of services, including safety planning and getting resources for transportation, housing, counseling, and financial planning.
PDC is funded through a number of sources. The organization receives funding from the state for its adult domestic violence services, outreach program, elder abuse program, and youth program. Two grant programs fund PDC’s sexual assault programming. Schulz-Stangl said United Way is also a significant supporter of PDC and provides about 38% of the organization’s total funding.
“For quite some time now, we’ve been the largest recipient of United Way dollars, so that community support is certainly something that is absolutely vital to our existence,” Schulz-Stangl said.
Grant dollars also allowed PDC to develop its supervised visitation and exchange program and relocate their offices from Marshfield City Hall to their current location on Second Street.
“The visitation program is very unique because … that’s the one program where we’re working directly with the at-risk parent as well as the offenders, so the programming and the facility needs to be set up in a way so that we can ensure all of those safety pieces are in place,” Schulz-Stangl said.
Visitation and exchange program
The visitation and exchange program is the only aspect of PDC’s services that works directly with the domestic violence offender. In its other services, PDC works only with victims of domestic violence in terms of administering advocacy services, but they do provide referral information to offenders to connect them with resources that may be able to help them.
PDC’s facility has extensive protocols and safety measures in place to ensure that parents of children who cannot see each other without conflict do not cross paths while exchanging the child. Each party is asked to park on the opposite side of the building, and the offender is made to wait behind a locked door with no visibility of the room where the at-risk parent is dropping off the child. Procedures determine what route each parent should take to get to PDC, and cameras monitor the activity happening at the center.
“With our visitation center, because we’re bringing the at-risk parent and children and the offenders basically to the same location at relatively the same amount of time, having the facility layout and all of the security measures in place so that, that can happen safely is really of utmost importance for this program,” Schulz-Stangl said. “This program is for families where there is a history of domestic violence.”
The program is equipped to handle a number of different situations. In some cases the parents of a child are not allowed to have any contact with each other. In other cases a parent may need to be supervised at all times when visiting with the child, and PDC staff will then supervise the visitation in the facility.
A personal passion
Schulz-Stangl is originally from Marshfield and has been with PDC for almost 11 years. She was involved in an abusive relationship when she was in high school.
“There was some pretty significant stuff that happened,” she said regarding the abusive relationship. “This (working with PDC) is very much a passion of mine. You know, I feel that I’ve got so much from my past that I can bring to this position that really helps me see things from a victim’s perspective, and (I) can really understand where they’re coming from and the fear and the confusion and the uncertainty and all of the emotions that go along with it.”
She later added, “I believe very strongly that everyone, everyone deserves to live free from the threat of violence.”
For more information on the Personal Development Center, visit pdcmarshfield.com or contact the center at 715-384-2971. PDC’s after-hours crisis line is 715-384-5555. It is also possible to donate to Personal Development Center via their website at the following link: pdcmarshfield.com/extensions/donations/donate-now.