She’s a marketing maven by trade, but a humanitarian at heart. Cathy Browne guides a team of furnishing experts across the Southeast with finesse and grace that seems effortless. She works alongside her husband Hank and helps clients create happiness in the home. From ottomans to rugs and accessories, Hank’s Fine Furniture is an industry leader during a time when home, heart and happiness are considered our most precious commodities. But it’s her devotion to the women and children of Arkansas that she considers her most important endeavor. As chairman of the Campaign of Courage, Cathy is selling something invaluable – strength and hope – that transforms the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors.
Cathy was introduced to Women & Children First when Hank’s Fine Furniture helped with the renovation of the organization’s residential building. During an onsite visit, an unexpected encounter changed the trajectory of her life. “I was looking around the shelter and a little boy, with the biggest brown eyes, followed me around – just watching. I bent down and said hello. He looked at me and asked, ‘Would you hug me?’ That did it.” She became the new facility chairman and utilized the Hank’s Fine Furniture network of plumbers, electricians and construction consultants. For more than a decade, Cathy has done anything and everything to further the mission of Women & Children First – empowering women to live independently.
Women & Children First breaks the cycle of domestic violence by providing crisis intervention, safe shelter, legal advocacy and emotional support that are critical resources for families. “We move women and children out of an abusive environment into a new life filled with strength and hope,” explains Women & Children First Executive Director Angela McGraw. For more than 40 years, the state’s largest domestic violence shelter has offered a continuum of services that relies on strong community partnerships. Collaboration is evident at the Arkansas Children’s Clark Center for Safe & Healthy Children that provides medical treatment, mental health services and legal consultation in a single location for abused and neglected children. Arkansas Children’s Executive Vice President, Chief Communications Officer & Chief Development Officer / Arkansas Children’s Foundation President Fred Scarborough elaborates, “Domestic violence remains one of the leading predictors of child abuse. The work of Women & Children First is an essential element of a healthier tomorrow for all Arkansans. The health and wellness of future generations depend on our ability to forge meaningful partnerships that maximize our community’s impact on these devastating issues. Together, we are committed to acting boldly to develop safer, healthier communities by focusing on interconnected issues like domestic violence and other adverse childhood experiences.”
Cathy adds, “Through the Campaign of Courage, our new facility will have additional agencies under our one roof, so a woman in crisis only has to tell her story one time.” She believes timing is critical for this capital campaign as state and federal entities are expecting more from independent shelters. During the pandemic, CDC guidelines and precautions have reduced accommodations. “Before the pandemic, we were full most nights. Now, we’ve cut our census in half; we’re working with women and children in hotels.” Cathy continues, “It’s important to note – most women, about 85%, utilize our counseling and educational programs. Only 15% need our safe housing. These will be greatly expanded in our new pubic facility.”
Each year, Women & Children First garners support for its continued mission fulfillment work through the Woman of the Year Gala. The evening celebrates the steadfast foundation of civic leadership that generates necessary revenue for the organization’s annual operating budget. The shelter answered more than 6,800 calls on the 24-hour crisis hotline and provided emergency shelter to more than 1,000 adults and children last year. A new “chat” feature on the website offers essential anonymity from a home during the pandemic. First Lady Susan Hutchinson will be recognized for her unwavering commitment to the welfare of Arkansas children. Women & Children First Board of Directors Chairman-elect Wallace Smith elaborates, “We are so appreciative and grateful to Susan for helping us this year with our virtual event. Through her commitment, we can continue to assist the women and children in need of our care.”
Cathy realizes it’s the shared vision – a brighter future for fellow Arkansans – that makes Campaign of Courage possible. “The city helped secure the land for the new shelter and everyone from the mayor to our city directors, governor and friends in the legislature got involved; it happened. Now we have almost four acres to call our own.” Her perspective is resolute: that while the problem of domestic violence can’t be solved, critical resources to help women and children escape the situation can be made more available. And she’s in it to win it… “We believe once the Women & Children First story is told, and told from the heart, people will understand that they must support this now. Yes, this too is selling. But when one truly believes in the cause – it becomes asking, not selling.”