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ConnectVA Spotlight: Emily O’Keefe, Domestic/Sexual Violence Coordinator, Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Emily O’Keefe, and I work as the Domestic/Sexual Violence (DSV) Coordinator at Goochland Free Clinic and Family Services (GFCFS), whose mission is to provide access to health care and basic human services to Goochland residents in need.

I started my work in human services in a crisis stabilization unit. After getting my MSW, I was a case manager and then program manager working with individuals released from jail or prison.  My work with GFCFS focuses on trauma informed care for survivors of DSV.

ABOVE: A video about the mission and programs of GFCFS.


What is the focus of your work?

Our DSV Program focuses on trauma informed care for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence by supporting them during the transition from an abusive relationship. This includes giving them space to make the decision to leave or get resources. We advocate for survivors during the court process to provide support and information.  We also can provide emergency housing and direct counseling.


What do you find most rewarding about your work?

It is very rewarding to help someone during the most difficult point in his or her life.  Making sure survivors are safe and seeing them take the next step are perhaps the greatest rewards.  Clients are grateful for the help we offer, but in the end, I am thankful to be able to provide that support.

What are some major challenges you have faced and how you handled them?

DSV is a difficult field to work in due to the stressful nature of the client’s story.  Being in the midst of trauma can be scary and draining.  As a DSV social worker I take self-care very seriously making sure that I have a professional familiar with DSV to talk to, that I set boundaries, and that I nurture life outside of the organization.

I have two amazing dogs that mean the world to me. I have a secret beach on the James we go to play; they love to swim. It’s my safe place.  I also draw/collage and make what some consider art. I love to cook things and try to find recipes specific to different countries or culture. I make an amazing borscht.

What would someone be surprised to know about GFCFS?

People are always surprised at how many services GFCFS offers to our community. In addition to the Domestic/Sexual Violence Program, GFCFS has a holistic approach to health care with 11 programs including medical, dental and mental health care, food, clothing, home repair, emergency housing, financial assistance, medical transportation and case management.  Our goal is to provide a “one stop shop” for clients, because we are located in a rural community with limited access to transportation.


Do you have any interesting initiatives or programs on the horizon?

As a result of the All.Here.Now. Capital Campaign, we are building a new building that will house all of our programs.  Having all programs under one roof will help further our goal of providing holistic care for our clients. In the DSV Program we hope to initiate a Women’s Empowerment Group.  I am also excited about expanding volunteer opportunities.  We will be conducting a second series of DSV training sessions and expanding how volunteers can get involved in this prog

GFCFS seeks to raise $7.1 million, which includes about $5.6 million for construction of a 20,000-square-foot facility that will provide space for 11 programs currently offered at three separate sites. A $1.5 million endowment to ensure future operations is also included in the campaign. A groundbreaking was held on March 21 at the site, 3001 River Road West. It will combine critical assistance programs including medical and dental clinics, a food pantry, and an initiative to provide clothing to those in need. The existing main building at this location will be converted into emergency housing. The new building (photo rendering on bottom) is anticipated to be finished in winter 2017. Read more here: http://richmondmagazine.com/news/news/news-west-of-richmond-henrico-goochland-may-2017/

Is your organization involved in any exciting collaborations or partnerships?

This semester we have had the opportunity to facilitate a portion of the health curriculum at Goochland High School. We worked with freshman and sophomore students to define healthy relationships, discuss teen dating violence, how to access resources, but most importantly how to set and respect boundaries in relationships. It was a lot of fun and the students were excellent.

How are you leveraging ConnectVA/The Community Foundation to achieve your mission?

Currently, we have a job opening posted on ConnectVA!  If you or someone you know is a good candidate for an LCSW position with an emphasis on trauma informed care, please see the position description on ConnectVa.

Also, I applied for this position through ConnectVA, Thanks ConnectVA, I love my job! The Community Foundation is a strong partner with GFCFS. Sheltering Arms and Jenkins Foundations provided support from the start for the Free Clinic. Our staff has benefited from their development workshops- topics ranging from case management to grant writing to Excel.

Anything else you would like to share?

Although our Domestic/Sexual Violence Program is fairly new, we have seen success.  We have worked with many women who have experienced severe sexual and domestic trauma from a very young age. We have been able to see some of them transition into independent housing for the first time in their lives. Even though the daily stories are horrific and scary, I am consistently reminded how strong and resilient the human spirit can be. I am impressed by how survivors have had the courage and ability to keep themselves alive and seek resources. It is very encouraging. To find out more about GFCFS, please go to GoochlandCares.org.  If you or someone you know needs help, our 24/7 hotline number is 804-980-6267.

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