In October 2003, after nine months of research, Josephine's Place, a storefront women's center, was established in Elizabeth, New Jersey, by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth to serve the needs of women in an economically poor area who often have little or no knowledge of available resources or opportunity for interaction. Elizabeth was selected from among five cities, as the one most in need of a women's center. The name, Josephine's Place, was chosen to honor Mother Josephine Marie O'Brien, who led the Sisters of Charity with strength and vision, during a time of great change in the church and society.
Since the door to Josephine's Place opened, it has become a familiar and important part of the Elizabeth landscape, recognized as an asset by the City, the County and the women who participate in its programs. As testament to its success and effect, Josephine's Place has drawn visits from those seeking to create or enhance programs for women, and has become a model for other women's centers. In April, 2009, Josephine's Place received a Unity Achievement Award from the Union County Human Resources Commission, and, in May, 2009, the Elizabethport Presbyterian Center recognized Josephine's Place as a "Good Samaritan" during the annual Elizabethport Pride parade.
The goal of Josephine's Place is to provide women with a safe haven, a place in which they will be welcomed and where they can connect with one another and develop the skills they need to succeed. Development of these skills will empower the women to realize their gifts and their full pontential, enabling them to create a better life for themselves and their families.
The mission is to provide space that will facilitate the empowerment of women. It is based on:
- Building a trust that promotes a freedom to be open and honest.
- Creating an environment in which women are to be respected.
- Providing a space that will be reflective of the needs of women as they themselves have expressed them.
The fulfillment of this mission will result in each woman having a sense of being respected, affirmed and supported.
A dedicated cadre of volunteers provides instruction in a variety of topics including computer literacy, crafts, English and exercise. Support groups for victims of domestic violence and parents of autistic children provide needed information and peer support. Most offerings are determined based on suggestions from women coming to the center. Once a suggestion is made, the women making the suggestion take the lead in recruiting additional participants, while the director secures the services of a volunteer to provide the instruction.
The 400 to 500 women who come to Josephine's Place each year do so because they feel safe and know that they will receive help. It is a space where women are affirmed and children are embraced with the development of skills that complement the learning of the women. Participants share stories, learn basic life skills together and feel that it is a "home"- their home and their children's home.