On July 7, 1970, Dove opened its first office with Ray Batman serving as coordinator with support of seven Christian Churches. The objectives were serving the poor and assisting church volunteers in education and training for service.
In 1972, Dove went ecumenical as other congregations joined. The organization incorporated and became tax-exempt. Dove purchased a run-down empty house at 1112 E. Locust, Decatur, and after some volunteer driven renovations, it remained the office for 15 years.
Mother-to-Mother, a now national program, was started by one of the first volunteers, Sue Simcox. Other activities were the preschool, cooking classes and helping to form CHIC (Community Health Improvement Center).
In 1975, Dove assumed sponsorship of the VISTA project. The RSVP (Retired & Senior Volunteer Program) was initiated. Two additional staff members joined Ray, Fred Spannaus as a VISTA volunteer and Sue Simcox, a founder and volunteer became the Program Director.
The Next 10 Years
As Dove marked its tenth anniversary in 1980, staff and volunteers began their response to battered women. Beginning with a hotline, the program grew to include support groups, advocacy and emergency shelter.
In the '80's RSVP grew rapidly and initiated the Aluminum Recycling Center, which was a major fund raiser for the RSVP program.
Volunteers at St. Paul's United Methodist Church opened our Clothing Room to serve children.
84-85 two projects were added to Dove. BABES (Beginning Awareness Basic Educations Studies) brought a message of good self image and making good choices to K-3rd grade classrooms. MAX (Macon County Assistance eXchange), a church-based financial assistance network to screen and fill requests for emergency help started and has been hosted at First United Methodist Church.
By 1987, Dove's need for physical facilities was painfully evident. The Domestic Violence Program was inadequately housed. More than $300,000 was raised for purchase and renovation of the St. James Convent at 788 E. Clay. The facility was ideal for the shelter and for housing other Dove programs.
In 1988, the Community Service Program was reorganized to its present form -- working with youth, working with neighborhood groups and helping to organize neighborhoods.
90's Brought New Programs
In 1990, a satellite office, to better serve the needs of the women with domestic violence issues, was opened in DeWitt County. The program grew from a one-room shared facility to opening their own offices which additionally houses the BABES program, RSVP, a food pantry, and DAX.
In 1991 the adjacent structure at 800 E. Clay was purchased for additional administrative offices. This allowed more space for clients at the shelter.
In 1994, Dove spearheaded an inter-agency coalition to combat homelessness. The program was named Homeward Bound was located at 903 W. Decatur, a property donated by Decatur Community Church. Dove Preschool closed; resources redirected into fighting prejudices.
In 1996, three adjacent lots on East Clay were purchased, 824 site was remodeled and was used by BABES and Community Services.
During 1997, Ray Batman was appointed Executive Director for the second time in Dove's history. New positions were created and staffed by promoting employees.
Many Changes in the 2000's
In April of 2000, with increases in State funding Dove was able to open Domestic Violence offices in Piatt, Shelby and Moultrie, strengthening the commitment to victims of violence in those areas.
In July of 2000, Dove celebrated is 30th Anniversary.
In July of 2002 the State money which brought earlier expansion began to decrease. The Piatt County office was closed and service is was provided to the county by an outreach specialist. Other domestic violence positions were restructured to part time positions. Decreasing State funding continued into 2003 and Dove had to reduce expenditures by $60,000.
In August of 2002, the Diversity program and the YWCA of Decatur Macon County, joined into a partnership called "Partners for Peace: Healing Into Action" and became a central point for training around issues of race relations and diversity. In the fall of 2004, this partnership dissolved.
After 30 years of success in building relationships between women of different ethnic, economic, and cultural backgrounds, the Mother-to-Mother ministry saw a steady decrease in participation during the later part of the '90's. In an effort to get the most out of shrinking resources, the coordinator's efforts were redirected into the diversity workshops and the program ceased in June of 2003.
During summer of 2003, a fire in the 824 E. Clay offices caused the closing of the clothing room, which located there after the closing of St. Paul's United Methodist Church. Now BABES, RSVP and Community Services are located at 302 S. Union. The clothing room is located at Prairie Avenue Christian Church.
In the fall of 1999, First Presbyterian Church of Decatur, purchased a property right next door to the church at 240 W. Prairie Avenue. After four months of studies and surveys, a Task Force concluded that the best and most faithful option for the use of this property would be permanent supportive housing. In May of 2000, a partnership with Dove was formed. FPC would provide the building, a cash contribution of $100,000 and ongoing support. Dove, through its Homeward Bound program, would oversee the renovations and the operation of this housing. In October 2003, The Elmwood, eight permanent housing apartments were open.
In January of 2005, with the 35th Anniversary approaching, a committee of the General Board reviewed the constitution and bylaw of Dove. After a great deal of consideration and working the members, a new constitution was passed at the April 2005 General Board Meeting. Dove would now be governed by a Board of Directors, which meets monthly to conduct the business of Dove and to work with staff members. The Board of Directors will call an Annual Meeting each 4th Monday of April to update member organizations on the happening of the past year, the expectations of the future year and to elect a new slate of Board of Directors.
January 2006, Harbor Place apartments were open. The need for Harbor Place became apparent from the work done by the Homeless Council Continuum of Care. Women who have successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program now have a place to be united with their children and have a safe place to live and to continue their recovery. Services will be provided by Heritage Behavioral Health Center and the eight units are owned by Dove, Inc.
February 1, the Anna B. Millikin Home was given to Dove, when it was determined by their board that the home could no longer function as it was in current times. This home is now the Domestic Violence Shelter, and office space for the BABES, Neighborhood Programs and the RSVP Program.
Work was completed to the East Clay facility which now serves as Single Room Occupancy (SRO), a vital step in the plan to provided housing for those in need. The Homeward Bound Staff have their offices in the front of the facility.
MAX and DAX program combined and was renamed Dove Financial Assistance. DFA serves Macon, DeWitt, Piatt, Shelby and Moultrie. DFA continues to serve as the Warm Neighbor Cool Friends site for Macon, Piatt and DeWitt Counties.
In June of 2022, the Homeward Bound building on 788 E. Clay, was dedicated to the late Ray Batman as the "Ray Batman Center for Social Justice." Family, friends and supportors of Dove gathered on June 11 for the dedication ceremony.
After many years of service, Ray Batman retired from Dove in December of 2011. (Ray passed on June 29, 2021) Jim Walters was hired by the Board of Directors and served through June 2015. Christine Gregory was hired March 2016 - September 2018. In February 2019, Tamara Wilcox was promoted to Executive Director and she left the agency in 2022. On June 1, 2022, Darsonya Switzer was promoted to Executive Director. We look forward to the new chapter at Dove!
Dove's ministry continues to attract partners and support from the entire community, but it has kept its strong base in the religious sector. More than 50 staff and 900 volunteers continue to uphold our mission. Come be a part of it!