In 1978, thirteen women joined forces to establish Crisis Center North (CCN). They did so with nothing but the commitment of their founding mother, a small core of volunteers working in one room that had a phone for hotline calls plugged into the wall and no furniture, a budget of $13.78, and a vision to end domestic violence in their community. They would ride along with the police to domestic disturbance calls. They managed to get ahold of a typewriter so that they could engage in legislative lobbying types of issues. This ingenuity, determination, and dedication gave birth to CCN’s mission to empower victims of domestic violence and cultivate community attitudes and behaviors that break the cycle of violence.

Over two decades ago, the torch was passed to Grace Coleman who is the current President and CEO of CCN. She has dedicated her life to supporting victims and survivors of domestic violence in North Hills of Pittsburgh. She successfully raised the funding budget from $97,000 to $2.3 million dollars. They have grown exponentially to provide new housing programs.

During the Covid-19 world-wide pandemic, domestic abuse was occurring in more homes due to the stress and yet many shelters were unable to help keep up with the demand. Coleman went above and beyond to continue to provide services for the survivors. Although many similar services transitioned from in-person to strictly virtual due to COVID-19, CCN thrived due to Coleman’s leadership. Compared to the year prior, they had a 16% increase in new clients served. Ms. Coleman’s empowering leadership helped to expand service provision support over 2,000 DV victims in the community last year. Plus, they were able to move the agency to a safe and welcoming new center for the parents and their children to heal and work on their goals towards a brighter future.

All the while, they provided additional programs that address some of the root and systemic cause of domestic violence. Grace Coleman explained, “Crisis Center North focuses as much time on direct services as they do with cultivating new programs and doing prevention education in the community. Because culturally, there is a lot that we are doing as a society that also works against the victims and their ability to seek safety.”

They are also, one of five centers in the country that are funded through the Department of Justice which allows CCN to provide free housing to victims and thier companion animals. This is important because about 50% of all victims won’t leave an abusive relationship because 90% of all Americans see their pets to be “family” which makes us very culturally different than other parts of the world.

Grace’s own dog Penny was actually the first canine court advocate and the first shelter dog in the state of PA that went into the courts to help victims address trauma. She is now retired but she does a lot of media because she was the dog that really started the movement in the court systems.

In fact, that shelter dog and now two others—Ari and Rune—assist counselors with clients at the center and in court. Now in its 11th year, Crisis Center North’s PAWS for Empowerment Program continually expands to serve clients and their children. The daughter of a veterinarian, Grace initiated education for vets as part of PAWS. She knew first-hand how women would talk to him over the vet table when he was working on a dog; because, he was never looking at them, he was looking at the dog. Grace noticed that many people would open up and tell him things that you wouldn’t think they would ever tell a veterinarian.

Grace explained, “I saw an opportunity to engage a population that had not yet been engaged by the domestic violence movement. We went to a privately-owned veterinary facility and offered a training. Well, two days later a woman who was being abused came into the center for veterinary care and the dog had been beaten badly with a baseball bat. The veterinarian was so grateful that we had been there to address the issue and said to the woman, ‘I don’t really know how to do this. I’m just learning, but I think that these injuries were caused by someone else. And I think I know some people who can help you.’ And so, as a direct result of that veterinarian having that conversation, that woman and her children were entered into services with Crisis Center North. Plus, CCN was able to provide veterinary stipends to help the dog who was also a victim of domestic violence. Our program is protecting both sides of the leash!”

Coleman’s life mission is supported by the community, the animals in her world, the dedicated CCN staff, and her husband Dr. John Chapin. Dr. Chapin has volunteered at CCN doing research and documentaries on the field of domestic violence for over twenty years of volunteering by his wife’s side. A professor of communications, he has the research background to garner the data needed to support the funding in the area of domestic violence. Also, because he personally came from a home where he experienced abuse, he is dedicated to supporting this cause.

For 45 years, CCN has worked tirelessly to serve over 88,000 clients affected by domestic violence in Allegheny County with counseling; medical, legal, and economic advocacy; and prevention education services to the community. They have an award-winning mobile program to take their services into the community. CCN’s Mobile Advocacy Program has expanded into the Allegheny Health Network Wexford Hospital. The program received Pathfinder Award for Program of the Year from the Pennsylvania Governor in 2021.They work with the Center for Inclusion Health. CCN helps people who are homeless and those who are HIV positive. In fact, they recently put together $75K worth of materials, dog care items, and backpacks to be distributed to the local hospital.

Cocktails & Cuisine is the main fundraising event for CNN. This year, guests will kick off the weekend to live music while enjoying top chefs’ specialties, signature dishes, and delectable desserts, along with creative cocktails, regional spirits, wine, and brews. While mingling with community friends and neighbors, the guests can browse the extensive silent auction and consider the fantastic vacations, catered gatherings, sporting event tickets, and other great prizes during the exciting auction.

Crisis Center North’s tradition of innovation and response to vital individual and community needs aims to give the victim service non-profit necessary resources for the provision of services and programming to survivors at no cost. Cocktails & Cuisine is an essential and principal source of individual and corporate donations for Crisis Center North during the agency’s fiscal year.

“We count on the greater community’s support in our mission to empower victims of domestic violence and be vigilant in breaking the cycle of violence,” Grace Coleman, CCN CEO and President says. “Whether it’s counseling, our 24-hour hotline, or essential house referrals or everyday goods to sustain those in transition, our services are related to the urgent need of victims.”

Only with your generous support, can CCN sustain their lifeline for families in crisis and create a safer, nonviolent community for us all. Please join or give a donation to Crisis Center North to help break the cycle of violence in our community.

16th Annual Cocktails & Cuisine

Friday, May 12, 2023 | 6-10p

The Woodlands in Bradford Woods

(134 Shenot Rd, Wexford, PA 15090)

Get your tickets or make a gift here for Cocktails & Cuisine to Support Crisis Center North:


Dr. Shellie Hipsky is the CEO of Inspiring Lives International, the President of the non-profit 501(c)(3) the Global Sisterhood, and the Editor-In-Chief of Inspiring Lives Magazine. She was deemed “Inspirational Woman of the Month” in Inspirational Woman Magazine and a “Luminary Author” for Inspire Me Today. She earned "Woman of Achievement," “Entrepreneur of the Year in Inspiration and Empowerment,” and “VIP Woman of the Year” and was also a 2015 National Professional Woman’s Association’s “Woman of the Year” and the "2013 Best Business Woman in Pittsburgh” by the Women’s Small Business Association. A former professor of the Global Perspective at the Ph.D. Level for over a decade, she is a proven expert on what she teaches and keynotes events around the globe. Her internationally best-selling Common Threads trilogy provides Inspiration, Empowerment, and Balance based on 100 amazing interviews from her Empowering Women Radio. Dr. Shellie’s latest book, illustrated by her 10-year-old daughter Alyssa, is Hopping off on a Business Trip: the first in her The World is Ours series for children. She is currently writing her 12th book, Woo Hoo! Brand You! through Morgan James Publishing. Dr. Shellie continues to share quality time with her family while helping to inspire the world!