The Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley has named its first new executive director in more than 30 years.
Laura Beth Weaver was chosen after a national search wherein 15 applicants from seven states vied for the job, according to WRC board Chairwoman Mary Atwell.
Weaver, 35, will replace Pat Brown, 69, who has led the organization since 1986. Brown announced her retirement in June and will step down in December, she has said.
Weaver currently serves as WRC assistant director and has worked in various roles at the organization for the past eight years, from violence prevention education in public schools to a range of administrative projects and services, from fundraising to giving presentations on WRC’s work across the New River Valley.
Before that she worked at The Crisis Center in Bristol for about six years, working on projects related to suicide prevention and domestic and sexual violence.
“Laura Beth brings not only a long commitment to the mission of the WRC and familiarity with its work, she also brings a great combination of energy and connection with the agency’s partners at the state and local level,” Atwell wrote in an email. “She understands the community in which the WRC operates and the needs of the clients.
“She also has a vision for future development that builds on the strengths the organization has built under Pat Brown’s leadership and she is able to convey that vision to the larger community,” Atwell added.
Weaver will inherit an organization that is today recognized across the commonwealth as a leader in domestic violence and sexual assault response and prevention.
It was not always so recognized. When Brown took over as executive director in 1986, WRC had a budget of about $80,000 and seven employees serving about 800 people a year through an emergency shelter and hotline.
Today it is a wide-ranging nonprofit with a $2.5 million budget and 37 employees helping about 3,500 annually. WRC operates a 26-bed emergency shelter, a seven-unit transitional housing facility, a 24-hour emergency response program for sexual and domestic violence victims, a round-the-clock crisis hotline, a robust counseling program for adults and children recovering from abuse and a number of violence prevention programs. All programs and interventions are offered free of charge.
Weaver recently spearheaded the opening of WRC’s web-based chat helpline for domestic violence and sexual assault. It is among the first of three such services in Virginia.
After transitioning to her new position, Weaver said one of her first tasks will be to begin a strategic planning process next year. She said while she has some hopes and dreams of her own, she wants to hear from stakeholders, the community and her coworkers “where we want to go together.”
She also said her new job will be about ensuring that “my 36 coworkers feel confident in the structure of their work” so they can focus on providing the crisis intervention, violence prevention and advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” Weaver said. “It’s always been my work and my passion.”