CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - When the phone at The Women's Center in Carbondale, Illinois rings it could be someone with a question, or someone in dire need of help. Either way, on Tuesdays 90-year-old Joyce Webb answers the call.
For the last 45 years, Webb has donated her time to ensuring that others get the help they need at the domestic violence and rape crisis services center.
"I spent 20 years on the board, 10 years as a rape go-out person, eight years as president and now I am one of the people who answer the phone on Tuesdays," said Webb.
Nearly 45 years ago, Webb and a group women in the community founded The Women's Center.
When asked what prompted the group to start a center for women, Webb said their reason was not abused women.
"We didn't know anything about that. We were ignorant," Webb said. "There was a meeting held at the Presbyterian church of a national women's group when the interest in the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was reborn."
"That's where Clara McClure asked the question, 'where do women go when they have no place to go?' Of course, we knew nothing about domestic abuse. It was never mentioned in the newspaper. Rapes were never mentioned in the newspaper," Webb said.
What was mentioned in the newspaper in October 1972 was an all-volunteer group using donations to open a place for women to go when they had no place else to go.
Webb said the group's intention was to offer women a place to meet, but something else happened.
"Within no time - a woman showed up," said Webb. "And we began to wake up."
As time passed, Webb and her fellow volunteers at The Women's Center had to learn some hard truths about the world.
"I knew how fortunate I was. I had a wonderful husband whom I loved very much," said Webb. "But I couldn't believe the stories I would hear - the things people would do to other people."
As more women in need kept coming to its doors, The Women's Center grew from the two-bedroom house in which it started to other facilities and eventually to its current location.
"All of us grew as The Women's Center grew. I was really proud of that too," said Webb.
Today, The Women's Center houses a 40-bed domestic violence shelter and rape crisis programs serving several counties in southern Illinois.
"If it wasn't for Joyce and a bunch of other ladies involved we wouldn't be here today," said domestic violence program and women's shelter coordinator Andrea Stephens at The Women's Center. "That means all the clients we've had over the past 45 years wouldn't have gotten help, wouldn't have been safe, and their children wouldn't have grown up in healthy environments."
At age 90, Webb admits she can't do all the things she used to be able to do, but she's happy to be the kind voice that offers help in someone's darkest hour.
"I know I'm going to hear something awful, but I'm ready for it," said Webb. "I get them to someone who can help them right away."
Webb says she doesn't plan to quit volunteering anytime soon.
"Not volunteering is not helping people, and I like to help people," said Webb. "I think it enriches your life. It's enriched mine all these years."
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