Where The Women’s Center started
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.
Over the years The Center has changed its name twice. The first change, in 2006, substituted “Southeastern Michigan” for “America” to reflect our regional scope. The second change, in 2011, added the name of Jean Ledwith King to honor her advocacy for gender equity.
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.
The Women’s Center today
Throughout these changes, our services have remained remarkably consistent. The Center continues its 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, 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. Executive/Clinical Director Marnie Leavitt now leads the organization along with Program Director Paula Johnson Michalak and Business Manager Jennifer McCue.