At first glance, the interior of the Graham AreaCrisis Center looks updated with fresh paint, carpet and laminate flooring. But a quick trip to to the rooms housed in the old cell block on the third floor proves the center is in need of a major change.


The wheels are slowly starting to move on the road to a new crisis center.


Joanie Edwards of Weatherford recently released the autobiographical book “God at the Intersection,” explaining how an unexpected pit stop in Graham changed her life and led to an upcoming fundraiser for a new crisis center. 


After going through a difficult divorce, Edwards made a wrong turn on her way to stay with her sister in Fort Worth. She and her two children ended up staying at the GACC where she met Crisis Center Executive Director Don Oldfield. 


Edwards and her children stayed at the center for a few weeks until local donations and determination put them back on their feet. 


The kitchen and family living area was updated by Oak Street Baptist Church. Three of the five bedrooms have been updated, and two are in need of
The kitchen and family living area was updated by Oak Street Baptist Church. Three of the five bedrooms have been updated, and two are in need of remodeling. Although the Crisis Center has seen some updates, there is not enough room for all of the center s needs. (Julianne Murrah)

She met and married Jud Edwards of Graham, and the couple moved to Weatherford. The dark days leading up to her stint in Graham inspired her to write about how her faith and the GACC, along with community members, changed her life. She partnered with Oldfield and made it her mission to donate part of her book's proceeds toward a new crisis center in Graham.


The Graham Area Crisis Center consists of four cell blocks, three of which that have been transformed into livable spaces for families in crisis. This cell
The Graham Area Crisis Center consists of four cell blocks, three of which that have been transformed into livable spaces for families in crisis. This cell block remains in its original state because it is too costly to remove all of the old bars bunks and concrete walls. (Julianne Murrah)

To help boost funding for the project, volunteers and community members will host the sold out  “Raise the Roof” fundraiser at the Wildcatter Ranch on Saturday, Aug. 2. 


“I felt like if we're going to do something like this, we really have to get the community behind it and let them know the needs of the Crisis Center,” Edwards said. 

This nearly century-old jail still has it s original hanging gallows.
This nearly century-old jail still has it s original hanging gallows. (Julianne Murrah)


Edwards and Oldfield have visited crisis centers together in Wichita Falls and Weatherford to get an idea of Graham's needs.


“We will need volunteers as we grow,” Edwards said, adding that most of the services at the Wichita and Weatherford facilities host a number of volunteers for various tasks. “They are helping women with job interviews, finding clothing and apparel for job interviews, providing them learning skills, helping them get a GED, getting them enrolled in technical programs.”


Edwards and Oldfield said that the current facility doesn't have enough room to provide services for women, either battered or homeless (most times with children), to better their situations. GACC is housed in the old Young County Jail. Built in 1921, the building is made of cinder block, bricks and metal and has four cell blocks — three of which have been transformed into five bedrooms, a dining/kitchen/living room area and a family bathroom. One cell block is used for storage because it would cost too much to remove the old bars, bunks and walls, Oldfield said. 


“I talked to a business man who wanted the bars,” Oldfield said. “He brought some people in to give a price to do it and they said it would cost $10,000-$15,000, so it is cost prohibitive.”

The three-story building still has its original hanging gallows, complete with a hook and a lever that opens the drop door under a prisoner's feet. Three winding sets of narrow stairs lead to the top, which stays pretty warm in the summer and ice cold in the winter. Even though the rooms have been renovated throughout the years, structurally, the building's layout isn't ideal, Edwards said.

 

Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.