On the north side of Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood stands a large, white house. Modest and unassuming, its features resemble the other vintage Victorians in the area. Yet despite its ordinary appearance, this dwelling supports an extraordinary mission. It is known as Catherine Place.

“Catherine Place is an unrestricted women’s center. We serve approximately 1,400 South Sound women annually,” said Traci Kelly, Catherine Place’s executive director. “Person-centered support is a cornerstone of our programming, and any woman can come in during open hours to speak confidentially to staff or a volunteer about their struggles.”

Catherine Place was founded in 2000 by the Tacoma Dominican Community to serve marginalized women. Inspired by Catherine of Siena, a 14th-century Dominican whose passion for truth, compassion for humanity, and spiritual vision helped to change the society of her day, Catherine Place does not have a religious affiliation and welcomes all women.

“We consistently provide long-term advocacy, support, and holistic programs for women with diverse backgrounds and interests,” said Kelly.

According to the director, Catherine Place embodies a safe, welcoming environment for women with needs ranging from a good listener, to parenting support, to immediate basics such as food and emergency assistance. “Our focus in all programs is building self-sufficiency, increasing access to resources, and leadership development,” she explained.

Catherine Place is backed by a strong board of professional women, multiple corporate and peer partnerships, and nontraditional service policies. For example, intake forms and demographic information are not requested on the first meeting, and services also are free or offered on a donation basis, removing income as a barrier.

“We assist women and families with building resilience, broadening resources for self-support,” Kelly said. “We offer needed respite and perspective as clients learn how to manage challenging situations: balancing work, disability, care-giving, mental health issues, elder care, and many other life-impacting situations, while also keeping their families healthy and intact.”

Kelly and her board believe these services directly impact local families, in turn strengthening the area’s economic vibrancy and workforce.

In fact, Kelly welcomes women working in the surrounding area to stop by for lunch, take a rest on the biomat, or just decompress with a cup of tea. The organization also offers Saturday workshops each month, in addition to other organized programming such as group sessions, leadership classes, individual advocacy, and healing arts.

She also urges Tacoma businesses and their female employees to consider Catherine Place as a potential volunteer outlet. “We are always looking for caring volunteers that meet screening guidelines, and there are many opportunities to get involved, including events, outreach, board committees, and our presence volunteer team,” Kelly affirmed. “Presence volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to sit with women who simply need a listening ear.”