by Kierstin Hill
In 1974, several local women, including Janet Bledsoe and Colleen O’Harra, opened a rape crisis center, known as the Women’s Resource Center. The Women’s Resource Center was designed to serve the North County population because at that time, the closest center was in Hillcrest in downtown San Diego. Soon after opening the crisis center, the Oceanside Police Department came to WRC and asked them to help with child abuse as well. WRC accepted the request and started another organization, Casa de Amparo. A short while later, law enforcement came to WRC with another request: help with domestic violence. The Women’s Resource Center was growing too large so the Board of Directors decided to split into two organizations. Casa de Amparo would focus on child abuse and the Women’s Resource Center would focus on sexual assault and domestic violence.
In 1980, WRC applied for grants from the City of Oceanside and the County of San Diego for a 14-bed short-term residential facility for domestic violence victims and their children. The funds were used for the renovation and initial operation of the facility. The shelter was initially named Alternatives to Abuse, and was the only facility of its kind in North San Diego County at that time. WRC started receiving grants to operate the shelter through the County of San Diego. Then in 1984 the Alternatives to Abuse shelter was expanded to 26 beds in response to increasing demand.
In the early 1990’s, the City of Oceanside refurbished an abandoned racquetball facility into new offices for its growing staff of 27 as well as a transitional house. The transitional house has 21 apartments for long-term housing for domestic violence victims and their children. In the late 1990’s WRC expanded again, this time opening a Thrift Store (3385 Mission Ave.) providing much needed revenues to augment grants.
Marva Bledsoe took the job as Executive Director in 1980 and has not looked back since. People often ask Marva if she is bored of the job, and her response is “Bored? How could I be bored? I have a long list of things to do the day I get bored.” Marva is also frequently asked if the work she does is depressing and she responds with, “the work we do is all about hope and saving lives, so how can that be depressing?” The WRC is truly a life-changing organization. When Marva accepted the position as Executive Director in 1980, she had a staff of 12.
Today, Marva works with a staff of 42 plus about 200 volunteers who work as needed. The Women’s Resource Center is truly a life-changing place of hope for so many North County San Diego families.
The WRC 24-hour hotline phone number is (760)757-3500 and the office is located at 1963 Apple Street, Oceanside, CA 92054. Regular office hours are Monday – Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm.