Willow Domestic Violence Center turning 45; Watkins Museum exhibit to showcase its history

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The Willow Domestic Violence Center is turning 45 years old this year, and it’s partnering with the Watkins Museum of History for an exhibit to tell the organization’s story.

The Willow provides 90-day emergency shelter to survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, serving Douglas, Franklin, and Jefferson counties.

Originally Women’s Transitional Care Services (WTCS), the shelter and advocacy agency began as a collective of volunteers in 1976, many of whom were KU students or the spouses of professors, according to a news release from the Willow. It was the first shelter of its kind in Kansas, and one of the first in the nation.

Over the course of the past four and a half decades, “It has gone from a network of volunteer safe homes to an agency with a staff of over 30, two shelter homes, several transitional housing homes, outreach, advocacy, and education,” according to the release.

The free-standing exhibit at the Watkins will debut as part of Final Friday on Aug. 26. The opening — with food, drinks and a short presentation — is set to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the museum, 1047 Massachusetts St. Advocates will also be on hand to answer questions. Free event tickets are available at this link.

Megan Stuke, executive director of the Willow, said the organization’s journey has been an amazing one.

“By celebrating and reflecting on our history, we can better move forward into future challenges,” she said in the release.

And the Willow couldn’t be what it is today without the support of the Lawrence community, said Will Averill, director of communications.

“The community had come through several times to help The Willow when it was in need, and The Willow has helped Lawrence through education, support, safety, and services,” he said in the release.

The exhibition will be on display through September.

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