In 1922, a group of concerned area business and church leaders combined their efforts to establish the Columbus Welfare Service. The first case worker was hired in 1923, and the agency was incorporated in 1924 as The Family Welfare Bureau of Columbus. Funding for the Bureau was provided for by contributions from churches, The Community Chest, and the city and county commissions. Their primary function was to tend to the needs of the poor and to provide relief in emergency situations.
During its formative years, the agency worked with other local charities and churches to help individuals and families solve problems resulting from desertion, separation, sickness or death in the family, physical and mental defects, lack of thrift and good judgement, unemployment and underemployment. Other issues addressed by the Bureau included immorality, mendicancy, delinquent children, transients, narcotic addiction, vagrancy and poor housing conditions.
In 1930, the Muscogee County Poor Board began offering direct relief to the poor. The Family Welfare Bureau discontinued providing financial aid and continued in other areas of social work. In 1935, The Family Welfare Bureau of Columbus joined The Family Welfare Association of America, ceased to operate as a relief organization, and began functioning as a social welfare/family rehabilitation organization.
In 1941, The Family Welfare Bureau became The Family Services Bureau, which then merged with Travelers Aid in 1959. In 1968, the two agencies separated and the Bureau was renamed The Community Counseling Center. In 1971, the agency’s name was again changed to The Family Counseling Center.
In 1982, youth mentoring was incorporated as a separate program within The Family Counseling Center, becoming what is now the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program in 1984. In 1986, Consumer Credit Counseling Service was added as a financial/credit counseling program. Finally, in 1996, our name once again changed - to The Family Center of Columbus, which remains so today. It should be noted that The Family Center of Columbus began as a charter member agency of The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley, joining when the United Way established in Columbus, Georgia. (Pic of original building in downtown Columbus, GA, courtesy of The Family Center archives)
For over 100 years, no matter what season of life you are facing, The Family Center has been here to bring light into your journey. We empower people to thrive. Our mission is to restore hope to individuals through acceptance, trust, and love. The Family Center stands firm in its long history of serving those less fortunate and the critically under-served in our community. We help individuals and families navigate out of the darkness when they are unsure, unsteady, and/or have lost hope. This visual is an illustration of that journey.
When clients enter our establishment, we are here to help guide, support, and empower them along their path. You may notice that the teddy bear throughout the picture embodies our client, with the lion representing The Family Center. One of our core values is courage, symbolized by the lion. At the top of our building, our other core values are also represented: Lock = Trust, People = Family, and Chameleon = Adaptability. In the first room, a caterpillar appears on the leaf of the plant. As our client moves through each room, so do our teddy bear, lion, and caterpillar.
From the Welcome room, clients may seek to be connected to a mentor. Our Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program allows those individuals to be matched with a "big." Throughout the program, the “littles” grow and develop through mentorship. When they complete the program, they enter the Transformation room, signifying they have met their goals and are now thriving! In addition, clients in the Welcome Room may also benefit from therapy: individual, couples, families, group, and/or financial.
In the Therapy Room, our team of dedicated, professional counselors are ready to help our clients navigate and overcome their challenges. The Family Center also has strong ties with other community partner agencies, and we collaborate to help our clients get access to vital resources and complete support along the way.
From the Therapy Room, clients may enter the Growth/Development room as they practice tools and techniques they are learning. Notice the caterpillars are spinning their cocoons and the lion is not present. This is a time of self-reflection, awareness, practice, and exploration. If a client isn’t confident yet, the ladder gives the opportunity for them to come back to therapy and regroup. If they are feeling hopeful, confident, and ready to thrive, they too move to the Transformation room, where they see the caterpillars who have transformed into butterflies, and the lion wishing the teddy bear well.
The next step for our clients is to slide down the THRIVING slide. Some may want to become “bigs” and mentor others; others may take the pieces of the puzzle they found and begin piecing them together in their home. Past clients and our community cheer the clients coming down the slide with words of reassurance and encouragement. The sunshine and rainbow symbolize the enlightenment they have found. Clients that find the path to The Family Center leave thriving, feeling empowered, and with a restored sense of hope! We won’t stop until everyone who wants counseling has access to it and all children who want mentoring have access to it!