Women's Recovery Center's Story
CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF EMPOWERING WOMEN
Women’s Recovery Center began as the Westside Women’s Center in early 1986, located on the second floor of a building on West 29th and Lorain Avenue. Another powerful women's organization, Hard Hatted Women, had offices on the first floor of the same building. We provided a safe space for women to find support and assistance. Westside Women’s Center was a dream prevention unit of our area mental health center, West Side Community Mental Health. Claire Farnsworth was a Women's Services Specialist for West Side Community Health Center in 1980 and she transitioned as the first Coordinator (essentially the Executive Director) and founder of the Center in 1986. Claire built a strong foundation for women’s programming and some of the early staff included Pam Scherer as an alcohol and another drug counselor, Onelida Santiago for Spanish language services, and Jo Lawrence as secretary.
Nickie Antonio became the Executive Director in 1990 and under her direction, the Center became a certified alcohol and drug addiction treatment center. It was also the first to provide counseling for women living with HIV and AIDS. The first bilingual and bi-cultural HIV program for women was organized. Nickie remembers those years as a learning experience: “The women who were involved with the Center were incredible human beings! During my years there I learned how to create a welcoming environment, how to give and receive hugs, and how to work with people seeking services.”
In 1997, Mary Jane Chichester took over Center leadership. She was charged with the mission to provide opportunities for women to take greater control over their lives physically, emotionally, and economically. At that point, outpatient substance abuse treatment services were offered for medically indigent women. Childcare services for mothers engaged in treatment were also made available. The Women's Recovery Center was recognized by the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County as the 2002 Adult Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility of the Year in Cuyahoga County and presented the John F. Lewis Award as an Outstanding Outpatient Treatment Facility. In 1997, the client capacity was limited to treating 30 women per year for addiction. In 2019 the number increased to 115.
Ashley Yassall was appointed as the Executive Director in 2019. She was previously involved at the Women’s Recovery Center as a Board of Directors member and has a background in health care compliance. Ashley’s main initiatives are to expand programming to utilize the newly renovated space fully, improve services for clients, strengthen administrative capabilities, and reach financial sustainability. She also intends to build strong community partnerships better to serve the Stockyards neighborhood and the Cleveland community. Under Ashley’s leadership, the organization became CARF accredited in March 2021.