After resignation and firing, Crisis Center of Russell County now dealing with new issue

While the Crisis Center of Russell County prepares for its inaugural celebration and fundraiser this week, the 27-year-old Phenix City nonprofit organization that helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault is dealing with another issue.

The center’s shelter is temporarily closed until the board hires new staff and gets rid of rodents, Stephen Cooper, the board’s immediate past president, told the Ledger-Enquirer in an emailed interview Monday.

“We periodically may get rodents into the upstairs attic,” Cooper said. “When this occurs, as it has again, we will shut down, get appropriate pest control and reopen. Last time this occurred, approximately seven months ago, we were down for 1 1/2 weeks. I believe the same this time.”

But this time, the Crisis Center’s board also seeks new staff.

Shelia Trapp was the executive director but left last week because she “found a more lucrative position,” board member Bob Cole told the L-E in a phone interview Monday.

Cooper added, “She had tended her resignation a month prior, but we talked her into staying. … She came on board during a difficult time and helped steer the agency through some rough waters, but it was a lot. This has been a high-stress situation for the past 2-3 years. We knew we would only have her for a while. She was probably the best hire as a board we have made.”

Although he declined to specify the reason, Cooper said the board “did have to terminate a shelter employee for cause. With Shelia leaving, it is best we allow the new ED (executive director) to hire their shelter manager. We have several very good and committed employees that are still doing the work and being paid.”

Cooper also acknowledged two employees quit amid complaints about late pay.

“Ever since the government shutdown (Dec. 22-Jan. 25), we have been trying to catch back up,” he said. “We get state and federal funding, but it comes a few days after payroll. Several board members, including myself, have put thousands of dollars personally into the organization to cover the shortfall until these issues can be overcome.”

It’s unclear how many staff positions the center has, but Cole mentioned, in addition to the director, someone who works at the shelter during weekday nights and “at least two people” who cover during weekends.

Other information unavailable Monday included the number of clients the Crisis Center has served this past year, its budget and sources of revenue.

But a former board member, who requested anonymity, told the L-E in a phone interview Monday that the center served more than 100 clients per year.

“They take so many calls from both men and women,” the former board member said. “The only other place (in the Bi-Cities) would be Hope Harbour (in Columbus). So it’s pretty devastating to not have a place in Phenix City.”

Cooper said he doesn’t know how many clients were being housed in the shelter when it was closed Friday. It can accommodate as many as eight families, he said, and a fundraiser is intended to help complete the upstairs and double the capacity.

Meanwhile, the center’s 24-hour hotline, 334-297-4401, continues to be staffed, Cooper said.

“We have weathered quite a storm of issues while maintaining all services to this community,” he said. “It has been difficult as we are solely dependent on the donations and giving of the community to exist. The work is needed and must continue.”


What: Rape Crisis Center of Russell County’s inaugural “Night of Celebration” fundraiser

When: Thursday, Oct. 17; social hour at 6 p.m., dinner at 7 p.m., program and live auction at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Courtyard by Marriott, 1400 Whitewater Ave., Phenix City

Tickets: $50, ccofrc.com/events

More info: 334-297-4435

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.