Gainesville Daily Register

Local News

June 30, 2011

Abigail's Arms welcomes new director

Gainesville — Abigail’s Arms announced this week it has hired a new executive director.

Houston native Kim Cook is stepping aboard just as members of the agency’s capital campaign committee are approximately halfway through a fundraising effort for Gainesville’s first family crisis shelter.

Cook is replacing former executive director Aaron Davis who served as an interim during the search for a new director.

The organization has no plans to fill another vacant position — shelter project manager — a job held by Betty Kay Schlesinger who resigned last month, Cook noted.

Building the shelter remains a high priority, even during a time of transition, she said.

“My primary focus is going to be on the new shelter,” Cook said. “I’ve heard wonderful things about Abigail’s Arms. The board is excellent and the staff have been carrying on their work in the absence of a (permanent) director. I think my being here will help provide the sense of stability needed to get the shelter completed.”

Cook’s resume includes two decades of work with nonprofit agencies.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work at Paul Quinn College in Dallas and completed her master’s degree at Amberton University in Dallas.

She has worked with family crisis organizations for the past 20 years.

“I feel that I have answered the call to help women and children who are in crisis,” she said.

Prior to accepting the job with Abigail’s Arms, Cook was a staff member at Family Gateway, Inc., — a Dallas agency which serves homeless families with children.

Family Gateway, she noted, is one of the largest domestic violence programs in Texas.

She held several positions at the facility including program director for the agency’s 24-hour housing center. She was also program director for Family Gateway’s transitional housing facility.

Cook said finding safe housing is a huge concern for domestic violence survivors, especially those with young children.

“I know that often the greatest fear is what will happen to their children,” she said.

Cook is familiar with all the components of crisis intervention programs.

She has answered hotline calls, assisted with programs which house domestic violence victims, helped victims transition into safe, independent lives and worked with the agency’s batters intervention program.

She said she’s excited to take on the challenge at Abigail’s Arms.

“Abigail’s Arms is a holistic approach,” she said. “We work with the whole family. It’s important for the community to understand what we do.”

She said the agency is based on a three-tiered model which includes prevention, intervention and aftercare.

She admitted working with families in crisis can be difficult but said she accepted the challenge long ago.

“I help those who don’t have a voice,” she said.

While at Family Gateway, Cook started a communication class to help domestic violence victims learn to share their stories and find solutions to their problems.

“Domestic violence takes away their voice,” she said. “It was important for me to give them their voices back.”

Cook’s first day on the job is August 1.

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