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Exchange Club Family Center rebrands and renews its commitment to victims of violence in Memphis

For over 30 years, the nonprofit family services organization at 2180 Union Avenue has operated as The Exchange Club Family Center.

Yet, many Memphians are unaware of what the organization actually does, in part due to the old label.

After a year-and-a-half-long planning process, the Exchange Club has rebranded as Kindred Place, which better reflects the 35-year-old organization’s evolving focus on family support.

“Ever since my involvement with this agency, which is over ten years now, part of the introduction has always been explaining how this name came to be. It just doesn’t have any intuitive meaning,” said Catherine Collins, clinical director. “We’re not a club and we don’t exchange things.”

More than a century ago, the Exchange Club model started in Detroit as a method for idea proliferation. In 1982, Memphis and Shelby County exchange clubs raised the funds to start an Exchange Club Family Center in Memphis and bring Parent Aide, a child abuse prevention program developed by the National Exchange Club Foundation, to its citizens.

Brand research completed by Sullivan Branding found that many Memphians were aware of the organization through its decades of service, but they just weren’t exactly sure what services were offered.

Catherine Collins and Jennifer Balink of Kindred Place, formerly known as the Exchange Club Family Center. (Courtesy Photo via High Ground News)

The Exchange Club Family Center will be rebranded as Kindred Place.“We knew we had a confusion issue but had a fair amount of recognition,” said executive director Jennifer Balink.

Since opening its doors in Memphis in 1984, The Exchange Club Family Center evolved to stay current and meet area needs. Many programs have been added beyond the scope of its original mission of child abuse prevention. It long ago outpaced the bare-bones exchange club model of yore. And direct sponsorship by the exchange club has dwindled over the years to be a much smaller piece of the family center’s support.

So why sport a name reflective of its infancy?

“A lot has changed in the world in the last 35 years in the way we look at children and child development, families and relationships. We know more than we did then. Child abuse is often one piece of a number of things that might be going wrong in a family,” said Balink.

“We as an agency have been looking at whether a child abuse prevention effort is still a relevant way to talk about the work. It’s more complicated than that.

We have evolved and added other programs related to domestic violence and other kinds of family violence. The way we talk about it now is that we are a family violence resource for the community,” she added.

Like the other 80 exchange club-sponsored centers across the U.S., the Exchange Club Family Center in Memphis only followed the Parent Aide model when it was founded. It requires parent aids to work in-home with parents for two hours a week. The curriculum runs the course of a year.

“We grew beyond that initial model and mission by adding programs. Even though when they first started there were 80 exchange club sponsored programs, and now there are 40 left, all were independent organizations only connected by this Parent Aide program,” said Balink.

This growth includes the Midtown location acting as a visitation center for non-custodial parents. Generally, court-appointed, the supervised visits allow parents to continue to have a relationship with their children. The center also offers a Safe Exchange program. Parents who cannot get along with one another can drop off their children and a staff member can shepherd them to each other to avoid confrontations. The center also hosts state required seminars for divorcing parents as well as programs that serve victims of domestic and family violence.

Along with the name change came a review of programming. While researching, Kindred Place came across a study conducted by Amie Zarling, a clinical psychologist at Iowa State. The academic had partnered with the state’s department of corrections to pilot her Achieve Change Through Values-Based Behavior Program.

“Rather than try to encourage people to change their way of thinking, this treatment model looks more at what is it that you as a human being value. What matters to you. What is it that gives you any kind of spark or meaning to your life and is what you’re doing now getting you there. It’s a model that’s less punitive,” said Collins.

Traditional models focused on changing the thought process of those working through the programs  — often with scant success.

“The problem with the offender treatment programs is the recidivism rates have not been good. The outcome statistics have not shown the kind of effectiveness that you would hope for after folks go through a 12, 14 or 24-week treatment program,” said Collins.

Early numbers show a different story with Zarling’s approach. The recidivism rate is 50 percent lower than the traditional route.

The nonprofit is partnering with the University of Memphis to pilot Zarling’s program with Kindred Place supplying resources for data collection and analysis to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in Memphis.

As the Memphis exchange club had evolved well beyond its initial responsibilities, the board opted for a rebrand. Collins found the word ‘kindred’ closer to the drift of the organization’s mission, not to mention more inviting.

“Kindred Place doesn’t immediately explain all that we do either, but the explanation seems so much more organic and positive to say, ‘here is what we do at this Kindred Place.’ And I think it does symbolically describe the spirit of our agency in a way that our previous name — not in a million years — was able to do,” Collins added.

Now that the new name has been chosen, all that is left is to get the word out. They also want to reach out to the greater community to hopefully help families in crisis before police and the courts need to – especially as many of the clients of Kindred Place are referred through the criminal justice system.

Kindred Place will also host a fundraiser and public awareness event called Over the Edge. If brave enough, you can and rappel over 80 feet down the AutoZone Store Support Center at 123 S. Front Street in Downtown Memphis. The first 92 people to raise a minimum of $1,000 will earn a spot to go Over the Edge to benefit the Kindred Place. The event will be held on Sunday, October 14 and will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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