BRANDON — Cheryl English grew up in Tallahassee, attending Florida State University, where she majored in political science. She married, had two sons, then eventually moved to the Tampa area. After making some bad life choices, she says, she found herself at rock bottom, looking for a way up. After gaining her footing with help from her church, English went back to school and, as part of her master’s thesis, she came up with an idea for a woman’s resource center.
In 2003, she incorporated the Women’s Resource Center of Tampa Bay as a non-profit, located behind Bay Life Church on Kingsway Road, where it has served more than 25,000 women in need of a job, food, housing or help seeking medical assistance.
Q: What motivated you to open the Women’s Resource Center?
Answer: When my life hit rock bottom 10 years ago, I really didn’t have any place to turn. I got a lot of services from my church and through other women. We developed a concept of the women’s resource center.
Q: What do you hope women can gain from working with the resource center?
Answer: We want people to get to be independent, learn to live within their means and be contributing citizens. It gives them dignity. It makes people have pride and feel good about themselves when they make their own choices and direct their own life.
Q: Have the challenges for women changed since you started the center?
Answer: When we started, there were family members to turn to. Now, we are seeing more like three generations living in a household, family members all stacked up. They don’t have the depth of resources they had years ago. That is causing a huge strain. People are making less money because they are only getting part-time jobs. In the last three months, we have been hit so hard because of large companies cutting back hours so they don’t have to pay benefits. Ladies who were keeping their heads above water aren’t any more.
Q: What are the programs most used at the center?
Answer: The number one thing is employment. People just have to find jobs. We teach the process of employment and we teach them about “right now” jobs. Keep transferrable skills to jobs available right now. We help them with job searches and get them job ready.
Q: Any new goals for the future?
Answer: Our biggest goal right now is opening a shelter for women. There are a large number of single ladies 17-25 years old who are homeless. It is a real vulnerable population. Their parents have died or kicked them out. Next group up are ladies that were in a relationship and something has gone wrong and they find themselves on the street. We want to open a shelter that is safe for women, where we can work with them. We are also using our model for the resource center to help the Plant City Community Ministries get a similar program up and running. To learn more, call the Brandon office at (813) 661-3696, Ext. 242 or Plant City at (813) 468-0133.