ENGLEWOOD, N.J. — Former Leonia Mayor Mary Heveran was in dire straits when she first came to the Women's Rights Information Center in Englewood in 1979.
Her husband had just abandoned her and her two infant children. She had $35 in the bank and no job.
"As I entered the building, women with warm smiles and understanding words greeted me," Heveran told Daily Voice. "I didn’t know where to begin. How would I pay my rent? What would I do about food? Where would I go to get my baby his infant care?"
The Center set up Heveran with an attorney so she could collect child support. It put her in a "women in transition" support group and provided her information about a clinic at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center. It helped her apply for food stamps -- and find a job.
All the services were free.
"The Women’s Right’s Information Center saved my and my children’s life," said Heveran, who went on to become a teacher -- and mayor.
Stories like Heveran's are all in a day's work, said Women's Rights Information Center Executive Director Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel.
"There is no other place quite like ours," said Abreu-Hornbostel. "We are 100 percent dedicated to helping women help themselves and their families."
The Center was originally founded by Tenafly lawyer Phoebe Seham in 1973. At the time, Seham was working on what would become known as Title IX legislation and firmly believed access should not be limited by gender.
"She wanted women to be able to get accurate and relevant information," Abreu-Hornbostel said.
Forty-three years later, the Women's Rights Information Center's programs help 3,000 women with, among other services, career counseling, computer training, displaced homemaker and single parent services, entrepreneurship education, information and referrals, legal consultations, shared housing and job interview prep.
The nonprofit is operated by a team of four full-time staff and 40 volunteers and receives funding from the New Jersey Department of Labor, the state Department of Children & Families, and several other organizations.
"People come to us because they want to turn their lives around," Abreu Hornbostel. "There were women then, women now, and women in the future who will need the help of this wonderful organization of 'women helping women."
The Women's Rights Information Center is located in the "little white house" at 108 West Palisade Avenue in Englewood.
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