OUTLOOK: Peni Center supports abused women, provides skills and encouragement

Published 4:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2023

People who have never experienced an abusive relationship may find it hard to understand why a person would tolerate such actions, but the people who have lived with either verbal or physical abuse or both know it’s not always easy to walk away.

The fear of the unknown can sometimes be greater than the fear of staying. Women trapped in abusive relationships may ask themselves, what will he do if I leave, will I be safe, how will I be able to take care of myself all on my own and where will I live — how will I survive?

The good news is women in abusive situations can survive. In Vicksburg, the Haven House Family Shelter, a non-profit organization, literally offers women shelter from their abuser.

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And now, locals in need will also have an added layer of support through the Peni Center, also a non-profit organization, that is designed to provide educational opportunities by focusing on life skills for women and girls coming out of abusive situations.

“We will be educating (women and girls coming from abusive situations) on how to prepare a résumé, work a cash register and computer skills,” said Penny Jones, Vicksburg Police Chief and founder of the Peni Center.

Women who come to the Peni Center will also be taught self-defense tactics, Jones said, and there will be financial planning seminars so clients can learn how to budget their money.

Jones said the Peni Center will not just be providing educational support to abused women, but also to victims of sex trafficking.

“I don’t want to leave them out. People don’t see (sex trafficking) in Vicksburg, but it happens,” she said.

Jones said the goal of the Peni Center is to help change the narrative surrounding domestic violence and other violent crimes involving females.

In a letter sent to potential donors, Jones stated the Peni Center “seeks macro-level change in order to create a society in which domestic violence is never tolerated or minimized, in which victims and survivors are respected, and in which service providers have the resources to serve all victims and survivors.”

On Oct. 14, a soft opening was held at the Peni Center, which is located at 1814 Sky Farm Ave.

During her remarks, Jones said, “Domestic violence is one of our biggest issues here in Vicksburg.”

In examining last year’s statistics, she said there had been more than 300 domestic violence cases reported, which equates to nearly one a day. Knowing the statistics, Jones said, she felt the Peni Center is positioned to be an advocate for some victims to get help.

In addition to remarks made by Jones, Vicksburg Municipal Court Judge Angela Carpenter, the Rev. Linda Sweezer-Rowster, and Haven House Family Shelter executive director Dr. Christine Bridges.

Bridges said she believed in “working with other organizations in the community,” to provide comprehensive assistance, therefore she is “excited to partner” with the Peni Center.

“What the Peni Center will do for our residents is they will be able to come over and receive some of the services we don’t directly offer in our organizations such as the computer skills and life skills,” Bridges said.


Also during the soft opening, a surprise was revealed.

Daniel Jennings, owner of Tiny Cottage Concept, LLC donated a tiny house to the Peni Center, aptly named the Peni House, which will be used as temporary housing for victims of domestic violence.

“When I heard about what Penny was doing and how domestic violence was a huge problem and people need emergency places to live, it went along with what I’m doing,” Jennings said.

Jennings, who specializes in building tiny modular homes for people across the country and then uses a portion of his earnings to help provide shelter for those in need — most recently in Rolling Fork, said, “I’ve seen what this world is going through with the homeless, and I said, ‘Someone needs to address that.’ God said, ‘It’s you.’”

Jones said the money collected for the Peni Center will go toward operating expenses, technology equipment and supplies.

To donate, checks can be made to the Peni Center or through $PeniCenter on CashApp.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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