Four Decades
Of Leadership

For over four decades, The Spring of Tampa Bay has been a leader in our community. We have been at the forefront of creating change and educating our community while protecting survivors of domestic violence. We won’t stop until the abuse stops.

Our Story

Founded by four trailblazing women, The Spring began when one of the women opened a spare bedroom in her Tampa home as a safe haven for a friend who needed to escape an abusive relationship. Word quickly spread and more women came forward needing shelter. Soon this network of community members quickly outgrew their capacity to shelter the abused inside their own homes. And in 1984, our first shelter was built, with only four bedrooms. Today, The Spring has grown to be one of the largest domestic violence shelters in the state of Florida with 128-beds in our emergency shelter.

Take a look at how The Spring has evolved over the last four decades.


Dorothy Gittings, Pat Gonzalez, Skippy King, Cathie Lundin and others help shelter their first “battered wife” in 1976, leading to the incorporation of The Spring in November 1977 with Pat Gonzalez as our first Executive Director in a small, rented bungalow near MacDill. Services include temporary shelter and a 24/7 crisis and referral hotline.


Judge Don Castor, with help from other members of The Spring’s board, recruits Mabel Bexley to be our second Executive Director in January 1983. According to the St Petersburg Times, during her 18-year tenure Mabel “transformed The Spring of Tampa Bay domestic violence shelter from a shabby single-family house with three staffers into a campus with a $4-million budget and more than 100 names on the payroll.”


With support from Tampa’s mayor The Spring moves into its permanent home near downtown on July 11, 1984, expanding capacity to 25 beds. With support from Hillsborough County, we also open the first public school in the nation located in a domestic violence center.


The Spring establishes an onsite licensed day care center, giving survivors greater freedom to work during the day.


The Spring opens its first thrift store on Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa on February 6, 1989. Eventually thrift operations moves a few blocks away to its current location on Willow Avenue. In February 2006 we also add a higher-end thrift Boutique on Swann Avenue in South Tampa.


The Spring builds a two-story dormitory addition to shelter that opens October 11, 1990. Capacity increases to 65 beds to better meet the needs of our community’s survivors and their kids.


After a decade of using temporary apartments leased to us, The Spring purchases a housing complex in the USF area and repurposes it into transitional housing. Now called Peace Village, at any given time our permanent housing offers 12 survivors (and their kids/dependents) safe, secure apartments as they rebuild their lives after abuse.


In October 1996 The Spring opens a new educational facility on shelter grounds to house our public school and day care, freeing up space in the main shelter for more beds and other services. With 102 beds at this time, The Spring is the largest domestic violence shelter in Florida.


The Spring at Plant City, a 12,000 sf building, opens on May 16, 2002 to provide accessible services for families in south and east Hillsborough County. The Spring owns this building and leases space to other social services organizations who also serve families.


The Spring launches a Family Justice Center (FJC) in Hillsborough County that becomes a separately incorporated nonprofit. As a partner, The Spring provides most of the non-residential case management services for domestic violence survivors onsite at the FJC. When the FJC closed in August 2013, The Spring makes plans for a new Outreach Services Center.


The Spring helps pilot the InVEST and DV/Child Welfare programs that eventually roll out statewide. Partnering with law enforcement and child welfare, Spring advocates are embedded with these system partners to better identify victims at high risk of being murdered by their abusers, and to help bridge the gap between child welfare and domestic violence service providers.


With major support from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, The Spring is able to open its new Tampa Outreach Services Center near the University of Tampa on April 30, 2014. Advocates now provide non-residential supportive services to over 1,200 survivors annually at this location.


The Spring expands again, opening Nunnally Farrior House (NFH) on July 7, 2015 to increase shelter bed capacity to 128 beds. The first floor of NFH adds additional programming space for adults and kids. In August 2017, we also complete a renovation of parts of the original shelter, including a redesign of the first-floor family hallway bedrooms where survivors live with their children.


The Spring launches its Injunction for Protection Project with two attorneys. In 2021 we rename our program The Spring Legal Services. We currently employ nine attorneys fulltime providing legal assistance and representation in injunctions for protection and dependency matters to over 1,400 survivors annually.


In partnership with Hillsborough County, The Spring establishes a Coordinated Community Response program to build stronger system-wide responses that support survivors and hold batterers accountable.


In partnership with the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative (THHI), The Spring launches our Housing Stability Program to assist survivors with financial and case management supports as they move into their own safe housing after leaving their abusers.

Our Priorities

The Spring’s mission is to prevent domestic violence, protect victims, and promote change in lives, families and communities. We want you to know You Are Not Alone. We are here every day for survivors of domestic violence looking to rebuild their lives.


We educate youth and adults with the goal of stopping domestic and dating violence before it starts


We offer physically and emotionally safe spaces where healing can begin


We help survivors regain control of their circumstances and achieve their own goals


We represent survivors and connect them with resources that lead to independence and restore hope


We facilitate programs which create immediate stability like housing, and stability over time like economic justice