The new home of SADVC Dowling Family Center. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

The new home of SADVC Dowling Family Center. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo


SADVC unveils spacious new headquarters next week

By April 22, 2011

Can you help?

The following is a list of items and services the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center needs for its new administrative headquarters:


Drywall materials and installation

Paint, painters

Glass window repair

Construction services

Wall shoe racks

Women’s clothing and shoes (especially business attire)

Children’s clothing

Diapers/baby wipes


Car seats

WOODLAND — In a building where children once learned to count and recite their ABCs, domestic violence victims are now learning the basics of surviving assault and abuse.

This week, Yolo County’s Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center will showcase its new headquarters at 175 Walnut St. in Woodland, a historic former primary school.

A grand opening ceremony at the Dowling Family Center, as it is now called, is scheduled for Friday evening, April 29. For more information, call (530) 661-6336.

“We’re growing into it,” SADVC Executive Director Lynnette Irlmeier said of the 10,000-square-foot building, which Davis developer Dan Dowling donated to the agency in 2005.

Formerly housed in a cramped, early 1900s home on Court Street, the SADVC moved to its new location back in October.

Here, the agency enjoys additional space for therapists’ offices, administrative, legal and outreach services. Plans are being made for a donation closet for clothing and other necessities. One large former classroom is the new home of a Family Justice Center, a one-stop resource center for domestic violence victims.

“It’s really exciting to see that building used,” said Michelle Dowling, president of the SADVC’s board of directors and Dan Dowling’s daughter-in-law. “It was starting to fall into disrepair, so it’s wonderful to see it spruced up and used for something that’s a good match for the neighborhood.”

“It’s really going to elevate them to a whole new level,” Dowling added.

Steeped in history

Originally built in 1915, the Walnut Street building once housed the Rhoda Maxwell Primary School for kindergartners, first- and second-graders. It was added to the National Historic Registry in 2006.

“This was ‘the baby school,’ ” said Irlmeier, who has encountered former Maxwell students who still live in the neighborhood.

A retired custodian who walks his dog by the former school each day informed the staff that the original bell still hangs in the building’s bell tower. Irlmeier said they plan to ring the bell during Friday’s open house.

There also will be an exhibit of historic pictures by the late local photographer Paul Hollingshead, whose son, Bill, attended the primary school in the 1930s. Bill and his wife Dianne, another former student, plan to share their memories of the school at the event.

The school was built by California architect W.H. Weeks (1864-1936), whose other works include the Yolo County Courthouse, Woodland Public Library, Hotel Woodland, Woodland Elks Lodge and Winters City Hall.

Weeks’ schools, libraries, hotels, lodges and other buildings can be seen throughout California, as well as in Oregon and Nevada.

Named after a longtime Woodland art and music teacher, the Rhoda Maxwell school closed to students in 1968 and became the Woodland school district’s administrative offices. The building also housed some county education programs but sat vacant after the school district sold it to a private owner around 2000.

Today, staff and visitors walk on the school’s well-worn but sturdy dark hardwood floors. Light fixtures are either original or closely matched. The building’s historical significance prohibits the new occupants from removing or covering the classroom chalkboards, which feature colorful sketches and scribbles by the children who come through here.

Room to grow

The Dowling Family Center offers the outdoor space and parking that its former location lacked. Inside, staff and volunteers enjoy more room for its various services.

A therapy wing features individual offices for the SADVC’s six counselors who once made do with just two.

At the Court Street building, “I would have (therapists) come in and say, ‘We’re very overbooked, can I use your office?’ ” Irlmeier said. “I would leave my office all the time.”

Adjacent to the counseling wing is the SADVC’s legal resource division, which provides advocacy services and referrals to other resources. A restraining-order clinic is held here three days a week.

The expanded building also offered the opportunity for county agencies to launch the Family Justice Center, where various resources for domestic violence victims are offered under a single roof.

Social service representatives, victim advocates, counselors, law-enforcement officers and others gather at the Dowling Family Center each Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. A “client navigator” welcomes the victims and determines the resources they need.

“They go to the victim instead of the victim running all over the place,” Irlmeier said.

On the south side of the building, there is work yet to be done.

Irlmeier envisions this space as future offices for the Family Justice Center, as well as a large “resource room” offering clothing, shoes, children’s supplies and laundry services. She hopes to get volunteers to repair broken windows and replace damaged drywall.

Meanwhile, the agency is trying to spread the word about its services. A recent donation of 6,000 bed sheets from the Cache Creek Casino Resort helped them to do just that.

Irlmeier said she contacted other local service agencies whose clients could benefit from the donation.

“People who wouldn’t normally come here on their own came in and learned a little bit about what we do,” Irlmeier said. “It’s building trust every time they’re here.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at [email protected] or (530) 747-8048.

Lauren Keene

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