Several years ago, as a friend went through a divorce, Denise Jones heard about Fresh Start Women’s Resource Center, where her friend turned to for legal help.
Jump forward a few years and Jones found herself separated. After a few years of that, it became clear divorce was the next step. Jones remembered Fresh Start and made a phone call.
She met with a legal forms expert, filed her divorce, retained custody of her children and was awarded child support.
Today, Jones, 40, continues to seek support and advice at the center’s recently opened Mesa office on the campus of the East Valley Institute of Technology.
Fresh Start Women’s Resource Center is a service created by the Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, which, since 1992, has worked to assist women with legal, career and counseling services.
Seeing a need to provide services in the East Valley, Fresh Start opened its first satellite office in Mesa last September as a place where women can find career guidance, meet with a certified legal document preparer or learn about personal development. Since then, more than 200 clients have walked through the door.
“I was having troubles with my soon-to-be ex. I had specific questions on how to facilitate the divorce. I was giving him the power,” Jones recalls. “They (Fresh Step) tell you step-by-step what’s going to happen with the judge. It’s intimidating. You’re scared. They make it so you’re empowered.”
In fact, Jones says, when she went to the courthouse she had more documents ready than other women who had attorneys by their sides.
“There were people who didn’t have all their ducks in a row as much as I did.”
Alexis Christensen, director of development for Fresh Start, said her group can help women going through divorce or separation, or are recently widowed. There are classes and services for women who need to rebuild or get started on a career or who find themselves in need of direction after the children leave the house.
The Phoenix resource center opened in 2002. Classes focus on going back to school, starting a business, computer basics, time management, goal setting and more. Each year, 30,000 women seek out Fresh Start for one service or many, Christensen said.
Women start by attending a Fresh Start 101 class that introduces them to the myriad services available. Depending on their need, they may then meet with a legal document preparer, connect with a mentor or support group, or meet with a career coach.
“We really want it to be a sanctuary,” Christensen says of the safe environment there. “When women are ready to make a change, that’s when they come to us.”
Though her divorce is complete, Jones is still working with document preparer Diana Camacho on child-support papers. Jones also plans to attend a class about financing college since her oldest is about to go to college, and she may do so herself.
Thinking back, she recognizes all she’s received from Fresh Start.
“I was married for 17 years. You get so used to having that other person there,” she says. “I wasn’t so scared of any of my new life (after Fresh Start). There is so much support.”
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