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Community Highlights: Meet Clara Reynolds of Crisis Center of Tampa Bay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clara Reynolds. 

Hi Clara, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I’m Clara Reynolds, President and CEO at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. Back in 2015, I had been Executive Director of a non-profit I had co-founded, Success 4 Kids and Families, for 10 years. Up until that point, my experience in the social work world had primarily consisted of working with kids or families after some sort of traumatic situation in the home that required external interventions. By taking on this new role at the Crisis Center, I have the opportunity to be involved in the work as the crisis is occurring, but also be part of educating the community on how to prevent future crises.

Taking on the role as President & CEO at the Crisis Center was also a homecoming of sorts. From 1994 to 2002 I sat on the Board and worked alongside many of the Board members who aided in implementing programs and practices that we still utilize today.

Prior to Success 4 Kids and Families and returning to the Crisis Center, I worked for Hillsborough County Schools as a social worker and for the Department of Children and Families as a Community Facilitator. These roles provided valuable experience that helped me to better understand the child-serving systems within the Hillsborough County community.

I have been at the Crisis Center for six years now in this role. In that time, programs and services have come to fruition that we have been dreaming of for many years. We have also seen awareness of our services expand throughout the community. It is an exciting experience to be a part of firsthand. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It definitely has not been an easy road to get to where I am today. However, many of my experiences that I have led to my interest in social work. Through this work, I know that I am assisting individuals in our community find hope for a better future that they never believed was possible due to their behavioral and situational issues. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Crisis Center of Tampa Bay?
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is a non-profit human services organization. Since 1972, we have served as the community’s gateway to help, hope, and healing for people facing serious life challenges within our community. The Crisis Center’s mission is to ensure that no one in our community has to face crisis alone. We are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year operation helping individuals and families cope with the devastating trauma of sexual assault, physical abuse, financial distress, substance abuse, medical emergency, suicidal thoughts, and emotional and situational problems. Last year, our organization responded over 170,000 times to people facing serious life challenges or trauma. 

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay offers one of the most innovative and collaborative approaches to addressing community health and human services issues in the Tampa Bay area – the Gateway Contact Center or “the Gateway”. The Gateway includes the 211-call center, where clients receive immediate information and referrals for social services; the National Suicide Prevention Hotline; the Florida Veterans Support Line; the Florida Alcohol and Substance Abuse line; the First Responder Hotline; and the Child Development Infoline. 

We also operate Sexual Assault Services, the only certified rape crisis center in Hillsborough County. Any individual who is 13 years or older and is sexually assaulted within our county and seeking support comes to our facility for a rape exam and advocacy. We work with the client for as long as they wish to receive ongoing support, connecting them to other resources throughout the community that can benefit them on their healing journey. 

Given the services provided throughout the Crisis Center, having on-site trauma counseling fits well within our mission. The Corbett Trauma Center has four counseling locations throughout the county, where we offer trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. Over the course of an average of 13 sessions, we equip our clients with tools to process their trauma and feel empowered to move forward toward healing. 

There is no greater crisis than when you have to call 911 in a medical emergency, so providing Basic Life Support ambulance services through our social enterprise, TransCare Medical Transportation Services, aligns easily with our mission. Funds received from these transports help to support the Crisis Center’s ongoing services. TransCare also provides Baker and Marchman Act transports to local behavioral health receiving facilities. In other counties, these transports are conducted in the back of a police car with minimal care given to the individual who is suffering from a behavioral health crisis. We also recently were approved to provide Advanced Life Support services for inter-facility transports within Hillsborough County. 

How do you think about happiness?
Given my career path, finding happiness in my daily life is vital. My husband, Steve, and our son, Corey both bring me a lot of joy. We love going to football games together and have been season ticket holders for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since we got married. Now that Corey is attending the University of Florida, we are ticket holders for their games as well and have already made many weekend trips to Gainesville to support the Gators. 

Personally, I also enjoy long-distance swimming. I have been doing it since I was a kid and it has remained a great form of self-care for me over the course of my life. Most mornings I wake up early to get a group swim in at my local YMCA before I start my workday. 

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