Meet Gillian Roy – A Conduit for Change

By Leslie Moore

Meet Gillian Roy – A Conduit for Change

Construction was in progress the day I met Gillian Roy at the new Family Justice Center in Georgetown. Located on Highmarket St., beside the Piggly Wiggly, the Center, due to open by the end of the year, will house a myriad of services dedicated to helping victims of domestic violence. Gillian, a Pawleys Island resident since 2001, is chairperson of Safe Families of Georgetown County, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit that has worked since its formation in 2007 to open the first Family Justice Center in South Carolina.

Gillian, how did you get involved in Safe Families of Georgetown County?

After our children were grown, my husband asked me where I wanted to live. He wanted to be in the South, and I wanted to be near the water. We found the perfect spot in Prince George, bought a lot on the Waccamaw River and built our dream home. We both love it here – I think this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

After settling in, I joined the League of Women Voters and began to get involved in my new community. In June of 2006, there were three murders in Georgetown County that were domestic violence related. I was President of the League at the time, and we were all appalled by this tragedy. We formed a committee to try to figure out a way to help, and after I rotated off as President, I began to give all my attention to Safe Families. We had no idea where to start, but we kept going, found a model we liked and started working toward our goal.

Domestic violence happens in all walks of life – I rarely meet anyone who doesn’t know someone who has been affected by this crime. There are a lot of complicated issues surrounding domestic violence, and the victim, many times, does not know where to start for help. Now, he or she can come to the center and talk to CASA, law enforcement, the Solicitor’s office, DSS, Rape Crisis, and even St. Frances Animal Center. Pets are a huge deal. If the abuser threatens your pet, what do you do? You probably do whatever the abuser wants to protect your pet.

How are you funding the Center?

We have received grants and many private donations. This building housed a physician’s office, and he had it up for sale. The price was very reasonable, but, of course, we couldn’t afford it. He knew what we were doing and ended up leasing us the building for $1 a month for the first year, with an option to buy in the future. Many other local businesses have helped us with donations as well. We are one of the only grass roots Family Justice Centers in the United States. I have visited four others, and all are at least partially funded by tax dollars.

This month, there is a fundraiser for us, organized by Leslie Sloan of Taz, called Shop for a Cause. You purchase a $25 ticket and get 25% off of your purchase at participating businesses in the Pawleys Island/Litchfield area. The entire $25 will go to the Family Justice Center.

Also, our signature fundraiser, A Taste of Georgetown, will be held on Front St., in Georgetown, on November 6, from 1-5 pm. I hope everyone will come and enjoy some great food while supporting the Center.

When people ask me why I spend so much time on this project, I tell them that I am someone’s wife, someone’s mother, someone’s daughter, and I know what a huge issue this is – it is not just wives that are abused, it’s the elderly, the young girl who is date raped, and on and on. It affects all of us, whether or not you are a victim. It decreases productivity on the job, affects the school performance of the children involved and perpetuates a cycle of violence. Eventually, I hope we can go into the schools. Education is the key to prevention.

Gillian, tell us a little about you.

I was born in Bermuda and was a professional dancer with the National Ballet of Canada. I think that’s where I get my determination; I was told I could never be a professional dancer, but I proved them wrong. Then, I became a professional mime with Celebration Mime Theatre in Maine. For three years we travelled and performed. We were performing in New Orleans, and I walked into a small “mom and pop” health food store. Behind the counter was my future husband! He eventually became President and COO of Whole Foods Market. We lived in several places throughout the country during his career, but we both love it here.

Besides my work with Safe Families, I enjoy travelling, gardening and kayaking. Our last big trip was last January to Vietnam and Cambodia.

For help with domestic violence issues, call 843-546-3926 or visit www.fjcgeorgetown.org. No one who needs help will be refused.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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