The Women’s Center grew from Soundings: A Center for Women — an organization established in 1977. Soundings focused on counseling and job coaching for women in the long term. Services helped women rebuild their lives — often without a safety net of family, friends, or faith community.
Soundings merged with Child and Family Services, which then later combined with Huron Services for Youth. The result was HelpSource. Repeated mergers made it difficult for Soundings to maintain its identity and continue to offer low-cost, women-friendly counseling and problem-solving.
In 2000 three former employees and a former board member re-organized Soundings as The Women’s Center of America. Mickey Katz-Pek served as board chair and Sandi Cooper as executive director until her retirement in 2005. Kimberli Cumming, who started at The Center in 2001 as a management intern, continued as executive director when Sandi retired. Kim served until December 2013, when the Board chose former program coordinator, Saretha Beeler, as the third executive director.
In 2006, we became The Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan to reflect our more regional scope. Eighty-eight percent of our clients are from Washtenaw County; the remaining are from Wayne and 5 surrounding counties. Some come from as far away as Ohio for our women-only divorce-related services.
The Center closed briefly in 2014 — reopening 18 days later on July 1, under a new business model that includes an insurance-based counseling program, Room To Talk. Room to Talk therapists specialize in trauma treatment, LBGTQI+ services (especially transgender), and therapy for the Deaf community. About 7 percent of our clients are men.
Throughout these changes, our core services have remained remarkably consistent.
Current Director Marnie Leavitt maintains a shared leadership tradition, with participative decision-making and active volunteer and board involvement.
Long-term volunteers facilitate our divorce-related financial and family law education, resource navigation, mother-and-infant group, and job and financial coaching. Graduate interns, under the guidance of a nine-person supervisory team, offer sliding-fee counseling and connections to women-friendly services.
When we help one woman, everyone connected to her also benefits.