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Long before there was SAFE, there were SafePlace women’s shelter and Austin Children’s Shelter. Before that there was the Center for Battered Women, the Austin Rape Crisis Center and the Austin-Travis County Shelter for Infants and Children.
With all the mergers and name changes for this Austin nonprofit organization, the only constants have been its commitment to ending the cycle of abuse and Frankie Fowler.
This spring Fowler, 75, celebrated 40 years of volunteering with SAFE, which stands for Stop Abuse for Everyone.
“Frankie feels like that touchpoint,” says Christine Langa, the volunteer services director at SAFE. She’s outlasted other volunteers and the staff. “She precedes all of us.”
Fowler, Langa says, “has this loyalty and commitment that informs her work and dedication.”
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An accidental pairing
Fowler doesn’t have a family history or personal story around abuse, she says. Her volunteering with SAFE began as a school assignment. She was finishing her college degree in business administration at the University of Texas while working for the state in 1980. A class assignment involved working with children impacted by a social services organization.
One of the places suggested by her professor was the Center for Battered Women. Fowler picked up the volunteer handbook, but center staff wanted a bigger commitment than she felt like she could give. They wanted her to plan programming for the children being sheltered at the center.
“I’m not a children’s person,” Fowler says, and she didn’t feel like she had time to plan activities. Instead, she volunteered at the children’s wing for Brackenridge hospital, a predecessor of Dell Children’s Medical Center.
Every Wednesday, she interacted with the kids there, but she didn’t have to plan anything.
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Yet, she did read that volunteer handbook and decided that once school was done, she would volunteer with the Center for Battered Women.
Fowler graduated and was going about her life in April 1981 when she read a newspaper on a Friday night and saw a mention…