CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Carolina Panthers owner, David Tepper, and his wife, Nicole, are making a big investment to help victims of domestic and sexual violence in Charlotte.

The David and Nicole Tepper Foundation is pledging $2 million to help build the area’s first Family Justice Center that will help abuse victims become survivors.

Nicole Tepper was approached last year about helping to create a space that would offer comprehensive services that take a trauma-informed approach to helping victims of domestic violence, elder abuse, child sexual abuse, human trafficking, and sexual assault.

In that meeting, Tepper met and heard the very personal story of Audra Toussaint, who’s a survivor of domestic violence.

“Well, I cried a lot,” Tepper recalled about their first meeting. “It was something where you heard stories of survivors, and you know that there’s more out there. If you can make a difference, you’re going to do something, no matter what it is. You’re going [to do] something to help. It was just that feeling.” 

Ever since, the foundation has been on board to bring The Umbrella Center to life.

Tepper said, “It is a darker area and it’s not something that someone will pick up a pamphlet on and say ‘Okay, I’m going to donate to domestic violence.’”  

The Umbrella Center will take over a vacant building on Albemarle Road in east Charlotte to house several different services under one roof. 

Toussaint now sits on the board of the Umbrella Center, who told Queen City News that they’ll make it easy for victims to access police response, medical care, advocacy and counseling, plus legal and court services, all in one place. 

She said, “I was a victim in 2014. My abuser had lived with me. I had a daughter with him; she was almost two at the time. When he moved out of my house, the abuse got really intense: harassment, stalking me, physical assault.”  

According to data collected by the Umbrella Center, in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, victims may have to visit 9 different locations, tell their story 27 times, fill out 37 different forms and navigate 50 referrals just to get assistance. 

The goal is to whittle all those numbers down to one. 

“I just think about how long that journey is and how tired you are and scared, and the resources I had that others may not. I know that the Umbrella Center is going to change the story for so many victims, so they can become survivors,” Toussaint said. 

The Umbrella Center is expected to serve 10,000 clients a year, and Tepper said she can’t wait to see every single one of those lives change for the better.

She said, “Hearing people thriving that once weren’t thriving, surviving, and being successful, like Audra, and hearing people’s stories behind the scenes of why this center helped them.”

The Umbrella Center is a public-private collaboration with $31 million raised so far.
The City of Charlotte has committed $5 million to the project, and Mecklenburg County has pledged $10 million. 

Other partners include Safe Alliance, Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center, Alliance Health, Atrium Health as well as local police departments in and around Charlotte. 

Construction is set to begin in 2024, with a target opening date of 2025.