Complete History of Organization
Sunrise of Pasco County, Inc. is a certified domestic and sexual violence center. It was founded in 1982 by a formerly battered woman to provide domestic violence services in Eastern Pasco County. Sunrise has been providing domestic violence services to families since then and sexual violence services since 1995.
Originally, there was a small office in City Hall where counseling and advocacy services were provided and for victims needing shelter, volunteers would provide housing for three nights in their homes.
Sunrise was founded by a formerly battered woman whose goal was to provide services to others who had her same experience. Her efforts resulted in the creation of a program which, since, has served thousands of survivors and their families.
Since 1982, Sunrise of Pasco has expanded services county-wide, created additional programs and services to help survivors with a variety of challenges from child care to finding safe housing, and so much more. Sunrise has grown from those first days with a handful of employees and volunteers to over 60 well-trained advocates, counselors, and support staff. Our volunteer force numbers over 200 all dedicated to ending violence in our community.
During 1987, funding was secured to rent property with a house (for use as a shelter) and a small cottage (for use as office space). In 1988, Sunrise became a state certified domestic violence center. By 1991, it became apparent that the shelter, which could accommodate 14 women and children, was no longer adequate, therefore a 24-bed facility on the same property was built. This allowed for the old shelter to be utilized for offices for the expanding number of staff members.
The Pasco County Domestic & Sexual Violence Task Force was established in 1994 by Judge Lynn Tepper and Penny Morrill and includes concerned citizens and people from the various agencies that come in contact with victims, perpetrators, secondary victims (such as children, friends, and family members) with a common goal of peace in our homes.
During 1995, Sunrise became a state certified sexual assault center providing a wide range of services to victims of sexual violence county-wide. Sunrise counselors provide sexual violence services on both the east and west side of the county. Additionally, Sunrise has been collaborating with Pasco County Schools to provide sexual violence prevention education to school aged children since 1996. Two Sexual Violence (SV) Counselors were available to provide services such as SAVE (Sexual Assault Victims Exam) accompaniment.
During the fall of 1997, construction began on the Outreach Offices/Thrift Store which was completed in February 1998. All outreach participants were seen at the new facility, and the administrative staff was located there. Additional space was needed due to the increase in the number of staff, the growing number of outreach participants seeking services and the incredible community support in the form of donations to the thrift store. In January 2000, a 6,500 sq. ft. building was leased and later purchased in 2002. The second building on the property was renovated and became the outreach offices.
From 2001 to 2005, Sunrise developed and implemented an Emergency Response Team to intervene with families in crisis involved in the child welfare system.
In 2002, rural services became available for the underserved populations who have difficulty accessing services due to lack of transportation and/or language barriers.
In 2003, the Pasco County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team was formed after the Task Force identified a need for a team in Pasco County.
Sunrise developed their Prevention Team in 2003. It is a joint effort funded from the DELTA (Domestic Violence Prevention Enhancements and Leadership Through Alliances ) Prevention Project, the Department of Health Sexual Violence Primary Prevention Education Program (both are funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention/CDC), and the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Primary Prevention Initiative. The DELTA program received the first annual Governor’s Peace at Home Award in 2008 and the WEDU Be More Knowledgeable Award for Outstanding Achievement in Educational Outreach in 2009. In addition, on May 5th, 2008, their Pirates of Peace Club was featured on Channel 10 prime time news in a segment about Bullying.
From 2004 to 2009, Sunrise of Pasco County, Inc. maintained national accreditation from the Council on Accreditation (COA). The first annual Peace Breakfast was held in 2004 and featured bestselling author Fawn Gerber as the keynote speaker. In 2005, Sunrise held its first annual Lobster Fest fundraiser. In 2006, Sunrise was named Non-Profit of the Year by The Tampa Bay Business Journal and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay. By 2006, Sunrise had also grown from a staff of one, with a $35,000 budget, to a staff of 35 and a $1.7 million budget.
In 2005, Sunrise was awarded funding through the State of Florida for a new Outreach Building located on property adjacent to the Administration office. Construction began on the building in February 2007 and was completed in June 2007.
In 2007, Sunrise began a social change program with a focus on engaging volunteers to create a community where domestic and sexual violence are not tolerated. Sunrise began to use an electronic filing system called ALICE which enabled advocates the opportunity to complete less paperwork and spend more time providing advocacy services.
In 2009, a new initiative began statewide in which Sunrise formed a great part. The new intimate violence enhanced services team (InVEST) program began which would allow for law enforcement collaboration with certified domestic violence centers as an approach to intervening with highly lethal intimate partner relationships.
From 2010 to 2013, Sunrise provided supervised visitation and monitored exchange services for families affected by domestic and/or sexual violence in East Pasco County.
(From 2013 Laker/Lutz News Article)
Sunrise of Pasco County chief executive Penny Morrill and heir apparent Kelly Sinn, center, join Dade City Police Chief Ray Velboom, left, and Dade City Police Department officer Kevin Burns during last year’s candlelight vigil. The event creates awareness of domestic and sexual violence, and encourages victims to seek help, and that they are not alone.
In 2013, Sunrise received a grant to expand the shelter to accommodate more survivors. With the increasing need for shelter services, Sunrise operated at or above capacity for a few years. This made it necessary for the 16-bed expansion. In March of 2014, the shelter expansion was completed going from a 24-bed facility to a 40-bed facility.
In 2015, Sunrise added the Economic Empowerment Program which focuses on services to support survivors in becoming financially independent. The focus is on different aspects of financial stability. The advocate assists in resume and cover letter building, job searching, enhancing budgeting skills, savings options, credit skills and financial advocacy. The advocate is available to assist survivors with learning about financial abuse and provides services tailored to economic empowerment. The goal is to focus on different aspects of financial stability by assisting in resume and cover letter building, job searching, enhancing budgeting skills, savings options, credit skills and financial advocacy.
Green Dot program was implemented on the campus of Saint Leo University in 2016. Green Dot is a Bystander Intervention & Prevention program implemented on the campus of Saint Leo University to help to eliminate power-based personal violence (PBPV); such as dating/domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Intervention skills, preventive measures, and awareness in the social-ecological model all play a role in placing more green dots on the map so red dots have no room to show up. Green Dot is a nationally recognized evidence-based practice that has been proven to be effective in preventing violence in high schools, college campuses, and communities.
Sunrise was the recipient of a grant through the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV) that created the Injunction For Protection (IFP) Project in 2017, inclusive of 3 attorneys. The IFP Project Attorneys provides direct representation to survivors of domestic, dating, and sexual violence, and stalking in temporary and final injunction for protection proceedings and prosecutions of violations of injunctions. The IFP Attorneys represent survivors seeking temporary injunctions, and after determining that seeking an injunction is a safe and appropriate legal remedy, completes and file the ex parte petition for injunction; represents the survivor at the final injunction hearing, and prosecute violations of the injunction; survivors who have obtained a temporary injunction on their own and need representation at the hearing on the final injunction; and survivors who have a final injunction for protection and the respondent has violated the injunction.
In June 2018, Sunrise secured permanent office space in West Pasco County. Though services were offered county-wide, staff had to partner with community agencies for office space in various locations on the west side to meet with participants. Having all services under one roof has allowed for Sunrise advocates to provide more thorough and wrap around services to survivors in need.
(From 2018 Grand Opening of West Outreach)
Sunrise of Pasco County CEO Kelly Sinn accepting the new membership plaque from the local chamber at the new outreach office in New Port Richey.
In 2019, Sunrise expanded the Rural Initiative Program to three advocates serving underserved communities county-wide. Additionally, the agency reorganized internally creating a Chief Operating Officer position and a Chief Programs Officer position. This moved Outreach and Shelter under one leader thereby creating a more streamlined operation and more consistent directives.
In 2020, a Rapid Rehousing Advocate was added to the Family Services team to work directly with referred participants to be considered for permanent rapid rehousing which was funded through HUD and the Coalition for the Homeless.
In 2020, the year of the pandemic, gave Sunrise the opportunity to expand services virtually. Outreach services moved to offer virtual counseling and advocacy to continue providing much needed services. These services are done using a HIPPA compliant version of Zoom to maintain safe and secure sessions whether for an individual or for a group meeting. Participants are given the option of tele-advocacy if they do not have access to the internet. With counselors and advocates working remotely, they have been able to be more flexible in scheduling calls with participants, making their time together even more valuable.