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Origami cranes at new Family Justice Center a sign of hope for domestic abuse victims

Published: Thursday, June 14 2012 6:33 p.m. MDT

Survivors of domestic abuse and their children have a new haven. YWCA volunteers, clients, donors and community leaders joined to dedicate the the new Family Justice Center Wednesday, June 13, 2012, in Salt Lake City.

Matt Powers, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — A thousand origami cranes and the unveiling of a statue of Gandhi were part of a celebration Wednesday for the opening of a new Family Justice Center in downtown Salt Lake City.

YWCA volunteers, clients, donors and community leaders joined to dedicate the organization's new building. After seven years, survivors of domestic abuse and their children have a new haven.

The center is part of a new campus, including housing. Ninety percent of the more than $20 million it took to build the center came from private donations.

The 17,000-square-foot building, located at 310 E. 300 South, has two stories. The main floor will serve as a hub for education and programs for the families, while the second floor has secure, confidential areas where those who have left unsafe relationships can find the help they need in one place.

"This will be in place where women and men suffering in troubled, unsafe relationships can find protection, hope and resources to create more peaceful, meaningful lives," said Anne Burkholder, CEO of YWCA Salt Lake City.

In the past year, more than 700 women and men have received help at the Family Justice Center.

"Now, with the completion of this building and the cooperation and collaboration of so many, victims of domestic violence can go to one single location and receive all the services they need," said Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank.

Volunteers, residents and staff created an origami pyramid of cranes to symbolize their hopes. An ancient Japanese legend says anyone who folds 1,000 cranes is granted one wish, and these cranes represent the YWCA's wish for a bright future for the center and its clients.

Community advocates Peter and Paula Johnson have given their name to the historic building next door.

"We support the Y because of the mission: the empowerment of women and girls and the elimination of racism. We have a strong commitment and a passion for this organization," Peter Johnson said.

"The opening of our beautiful, renovated campus is the beginning of our conversation with the community about empowering women to learn and to lead," Paula Johnson added.

And as a lasting symbol of peace and justice, Utah sculptor Dennis Smith unveiled his statue of Mahatma Gandhi.

Boyer Jarvis, a board member of the Gandhi Alliance for Peace, described why Gandhi’s image fits so well in the garden of the new justice center. Jarvis said Gandhi is known for "his unique role in world history and his commitment to truth, justice, service and to encourage nonviolent resolution of conflict among individuals, communities and nations."

One of the clients said the programs have changed her perception of how life can be for her and her young daughters. "They provided me with legal support, financial support, connections with groups, therapy for my children, medical assistance for myself and my children — amazing things," Amanda said.

For more than 100 years in Utah, the YWCA has worked to empower women. Administrators and survivors say their new facility will change lives and improve communities.

E-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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