Kathy Manis Findley

Safe Places

City: Little Rock
Category: Nonprofit Executive of the Year
Year: 2008

Kathy Findley, founder and executive director of Safe Places, knows first hand the trauma experienced by the people the nonprofit assists.

Findley emerged from an abusive childhood. In writing about choosing a career in social services and human rights, she said she sought to help others avoid what she had endured.

The mission of Safe Places, founded in 2002, is two-pronged.

First, it works primarily with children, but also with adults, who have faced violence, such as domestic violence, child abuse, rape, sex trafficking and stalking. "Anyone who has been a victim of abuse is eligible for our services," Findley said. The services include counseling, support groups and court advocacy.

Second, Safe Places seeks to prevent violence, working in schools and in detention facilities. It teaches anger management and parenting skills and instructs young people about healthy relationships.

Safe Places served 1,700 people in 2008. Since its founding, its revenue has grown at an annual rate of 74 percent.

The work is hard, and Findley seeks staff members "who really have a heart for what we do." She has learned that a team approach is best. "I never say, 'This is my employee. ... I always say, 'This is my co-worker.'"

Her proudest achievement is the survival of Safe Places. "We started with not a penny," Findley said.

She struggled for two years alone with no pay. In the third year, she was able to hire an employee. "By the fourth year, things were moving along, yet nobody knew who we were. I said to our board, 'We're moving into our sixth year. 2008 is going to be our year. If 2008 is not our year, we're not going to survive.'"

Last year, Safe Places did gain more recognition as well as more financial support, and Findley is looking forward to the day when funding is stable.

Findley noted that an organization like Safe Places is even more important now, "because when the economy is like this, we have more violence."

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