New Life Center began as a vision of members of the Soroptimist International of Estrella – a women-centric civic organization formed in 1921 in Oakland, California – who were moved by a presentation about the widespread nature of domestic violence and the critical need for shelters. Their heightened awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence in Maricopa County prompted the group to attend a chamber of commerce committee in 1986 where members of the community indicated a need for services for victims and their children. When it became clear no other group would take the lead in establishing a shelter on the westside of the county, the Soroptimist group decided to take action and establish a shelter on their own under the name “New Life Shelter” the next year. From there, Arizona’s largest domestic violence and sexual assault shelter was born.
It took approximately four years for New Life to find a home, but in the spring of 1991, the founders of New Life located an unused dormitory in the heart of Litchfield Park owned by the Wigwam Resort. The Wigwam used the dormitory for seasonal workers when the property closed for the summer and was left partially abandoned with some rooms used solely for storage. With support from the CEO of SunCor – who owned and operated the Wigwam – the resort agreed to lease space in the building for use as a shelter for domestic violence survivors, paving the way for a permanent site. And in June 1991, the Litchfield Park City Council voted 6-1 to approve the operations of New Life.
NEW LIFE CENTER OPENED ITS DOORS IN OCTOBER 1991
With fundraising and renovations to the old dormitory complete, New Life opened its doors in October 1991 offering eight beds for victims of domestic violence and their children. The facility had a common kitchen area, volunteer-led daycare and counseling for its first residents. And even after expanding to 30 beds as the founders envisioned, the space and services were not enough for the number of women and children seeking help. Expanding the number and types of services offered at New Life became a priority, and by 1998, services offered at New Life included individual group counseling, personal advocacy, job-training assistance, education, transportation, children’s programs and tutoring, and, of course, permanent housing. New Life was no longer simply a haven from domestic abuse, but now a comprehensive provider of an array of services designed to help victims thrive in their new lives. To reflect the change in services, the name of the agency was changed to New Life Center.
The growth of offered services and a newfound reputation as a pillar of the community enabled New Life Center to plan for expansion. The City of Goodyear provided a generous, 100-year, $1/year lease and agreed to waive all permitting fees for the construction of the new facility. Funds in the form of federal and city grants as well as Board-driven campaigns provided the necessary capital to break ground on the brand-new facility in May 1999. On March 29, 2000, New Life Center dedicated its new building in front of scores of volunteers, supporters, public officials and ushered in a new millennium for the shelter.
Today, New Life Center is the largest domestic violence shelter in Arizona, serving more than 1,000 children and adults annually through its emergency shelter and outreach support programs while simultaneously helping to create an Arizona where all live free of domestic and sexual violence.