Peaceful Paths sets the standard with new campus for domestic abuse survivors

eda is proud to have assisted with the design and permitting of this project. Peaceful Paths is a wonderful community resource!
We’ve posted Gainesville Sun article reporting on the ribbon cutting of their new campus.


As a Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce employee, Joe Johnson has attended a lot of ribbon-cutting ceremonies. This one was personal.

Johnson introduced himself as a victim of domestic violence in celebrating the opening of the Peaceful Path Domestic Abuse Network’s new Dutton-Schilling Campus on Tuesday.

In 1989, his ex-wife, Polly, was killed by her new husband, who then slit his own throat. He told The Sun about the years of trauma his son suffered in the aftermath of his mother’s death.

“It’s very personal because my daughter has no mother and my son has no mother,” said Johnson, who joined Peaceful Path’s board in 1992.

“I am so proud of what’s going on here now because, even though I wish it didn’t have to exist, it’s a necessity in society nowadays because men do not — in my opinion — man up,” Johnson said. “If someone makes you mad and stuff like that, especially women, walk away, cool off and then come back.”

The gated campus for abuse survivors is behind Peaceful Path’s main office on Northwest 53rd Avenue and includes three four-bedroom buildings and a 12-bedroom building with a group meeting room, youth program room, play areas, TV rooms, living rooms, a pet room, kitchen and a staff area.

Executive Director Theresa Beachy said the campus will give abuse survivors more convenient access to services in a more therapeutic environment.

The campus eventually will replace Peaceful Path’s current 35-bed facility, which is housed at an undisclosed location.

Construction was funded by a $3 million state grant secured with a $1 million match to buy the land from local veterinarian Jay Dutton and oncologist Paul Schilling, both Peaceful Path board members.

Speaking to about 200 assembled volunteers, donors, staff and elected officials, Dutton described sitting in Beachy’s office about five years ago when she turned around, waved toward the window and said, “Well, that land back there is available.”

“I believe that the true measure of a community is how it regards and treats its most vulnerable citizens,” Dutton said. “This shelter and campus sends an important message to our clients. You made a courageous decision and acted on it — to leave your abuser. When you walk through the shelter doors, there is an immediate message that this community equally believes in your self-worth and wants what’s best for you as you rebuild your life and move to self-sufficiency.”

Peaceful Paths has a staff of 30 and operates the residential shelter, a hotline, and outreach services in Alachua, Bradford and Union counties, including victim advocacy, counseling, healthy relationship classes at schools and youth programs. It works with the child welfare system, law enforcement, schools, courts, homeless centers, hospitals and other places where victims come seeking help.

Every year, Peaceful Paths shelters 200 women and children, counsels 750 people, answers 2,000 hotline calls and educates 3,500 students and 1,500 professionals.

A majority of its $1.5 million in annual funding comes from a handful of grants, including the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence trust fund that collects fees from marriage and divorce certificates.

Tiffany Carr, president and CEO of the coalition, said Tuesday that Peaceful Paths is on the cutting edge of domestic abuse organizations in the state.

“What’s happening here has not happened anywhere and you guys should be so proud,” she said. “I am so excited for survivors of domestic violence and their children, so thank you for your leadership.”

The organization has been doing more fundraising to cover an additional $45,000 a year in operating costs that the expansion will bring.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, SunState Community Federal Credit Union presented checks from board members and employees to sponsor three rooms.