By Martie Thompson
editor@floridanewsline.com

Kelly Franklin was named the new CEO of Betty Griffin Center on Oct. 1, the culmination of her 19 years working with the agency. She had served most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Betty Griffin Center; previous positions included outreach coordinator and shelter director, all of which stand her in good stead in her new leadership role. Franklin is originally from Buffalo, NY and said that she’s glad to be out of the cold, but still holds the Buffalo Bills dear to her heart. She is a recent survivor of breast cancer and was excited to ring the bell this past fall after her final radiation treatment. She said she feels healthy and excited about her future. Franklin and her husband James have three grown sons and three dogs.

Q: How did you come to live in St. Johns County?
A: My parents retired to St. Augustine and I came down from Buffalo in my early 20s and fell in love with it. My boyfriend, now husband, moved down too. We were neighbors growing up and have known each other since age 11. We’ve been married for 25 years.

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Q: How did you first come to work at Betty Griffin Center?
A: I had worked for 14 years for JC Penney as a visual merchandising manager when I decided I wanted to go back to school. I finished my associate’s degree at St. Johns River State College and then my undergraduate degree in psychology at the University of North Florida. While there, I began an internship at the then-Betty Griffin House. It scared me a little when I learned it was a domestic violence center, but I knew I could do it and would benefit from the opportunity to learn in a hands-on fashion. They were short staffed and made me a case manager while I was interning. 

I eventually earned my master’s degree from Florida State University and, even though I was on a “break” from Betty Griffin, I volunteered there. I became the shelter director of our 18-bed facility at the time where I was able to work directly with our participants. Several years later, I became program director. We grew the facility to a 54-bed shelter and added more services, since domestic violence and sexual assault encompass everything, including substance abuse and mental health issues.

Q: What can you tell us about the services offered by Betty Griffin Center?

A: We offer a holistic approach. First, Betty Griffin Center, in partnership with Flagler Hospital, is the sexual abuse response team for St. Johns County adults. We provide nurses and advocates and support groups for adults and children. Our Economic Justice Program provides advocates to further education and help with literacy, budgeting and employment. Our INVEST (Intimate Violence Enhancement Service Team) works with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office to go through reports and look for the highest propensity of danger for physical harm. We also offer crisis counseling and safety planning on an outreach basis as well as in the shelter. So you can see, we are a comprehensive program and much more than just a shelter.

Q: What role do the Betty Griffin Thrift Shoppes play?
A: These are helpful in a number of ways. We often give gift cards to our participants to shop for their own clothes or necessary household items. We also sell items that are donated by community members and this money supports our services. We have plenty of stock and are always seeking shoppers!

Q: How did you become CEO of Betty Griffin Center?
A: It was a long process. I actually wasn’t sure if I was going to apply since I was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, but I feel that my focus on my work gave me energy. I’m very excited about the position and where we can go from here. Joyce [Mahr, the previous CEO] left a great organization and I’m happy to keep it going and work on getting more people investing in our mission.

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
A: I love to spend time with my sons, who all live locally. During COVID, I took on lots of DIY house projects. Lately, I’ve enjoyed painting those small rocks and leaving them for others to find. I also like books, especially autobiographies.

[Editor’s Note: The Crisis Hotline for Betty Griffin Center is (904) 824-1555. It is available 24 hours a day to offer resources and support for those in crisis. Visit www.bettygriffincenter.org for more information and to find out how you can help.]

Photo courtesy Kelly Franklin
Kelly Franklin and Kiwi

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