By Maria Sonnenberg
AL DIA TODAY
MELBOURNE — When Dr. Jessica Calvo-Blanco happened upon the job description for director of programs at the Women’s Center, she knew it was “tailormade” for her.
“I instantly fell in love with it and when I first visited the Center, I knew I was home,” she said.
Fortunately, the administration of the Women’s Center also thought the organization was a perfect fit for Calvo-Blanco, and in September she assumed the job of administering a diversity of programs to a diverse population.
“I’m looking at the programs with a fresh pair of eyes,” she said.
She has a big job ahead. For more than 40 years, the Women’s Center has offered advocacy, guidance and counseling, primarily for Brevard women experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault. Every year, the organization serves approximately 12,000 clients. While the majority are women, the Center also helps men and children who have been victims of domestic violence.
The Women’s Center is the certified rape crisis center for Brevard, operating a 24/7 helpline. Its emergency shelter and transitional housing program offers a safe haven for women and children who are homeless in Palm Bay, Melbourne and Titusville.
It is one of the few nonprofits in the area that offers comprehensive services free of charge to anyone who seeks their help.
“The need for services has grown as Brevard has grown,” said Calvo-Blanco.
Born in Miami into a large Cuban family, Calvo-Blanco would like to see more Hispanics, as well as Haitians and Middle Eastern women, avail themselves of the Center services.
“In these communities, families don’t want to air their dirty laundry, so these women may not come forward when they need help,” she said.
“I want these communities to know we are here for them, and that women need to come forward.”
Brevard is familiar ground for Calvo-Blanco, for she worked for Comprehensive Health Services in Canaveral since 2016. She received her bachelor’s, master’s degree and her PhD in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale.
In South Florida, she advocated for low-income families as a therapist with Children’s Harbor and provided group therapy and DUI counseling at Florida Family Care. She also helped open shelters for migrant children there.
Calvo-Blanco’s family is still in Miami, but that will soon change when they move to new home in Indialantic. Her husband, Andres, is a high school teacher. Her oldest daughter, Victoria, is 21 and studies at Florida State University in Tallahassee. Calvo-Blanco’s “baby” is Emma, now 13.
As director of programs, Calvo-Blanco has a demanding and challenging job overseeing services that can make a critical difference for very vulnerable clients at a very dark time in their lives.
“They trust in our services, and we will not let them down,” said Calvo-Blanco.
The Women’s Center mission is to assist in creating safe, healthy, self-sufficient lives by providing support, education, counseling, information and services to survivors of domestic, dating and sexual violence and to those suffering the ill effects of poverty, homelessness and mental health challenges.
For more information on the Women’s Center, located in 1425 Aurora Road in Melbourne, call 321-242-3110(Melbourne) or 321-607-6811(Titusville) or visit womenscenter.net.