Women & Business: Ann Emmerling
Emmerling is Executive Director of the Blackburn Center.
Ann Emmerling started her work in victim services in 1982 as a volunteer, and then a board member, at Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. “I was fresh out of college and quickly recognized that this could be my life’s work.” In 1985, she was hired as a community educator at the Blackburn Center in Greensburg and, seven years later, was named executive director.
Blackburn Center has experienced significant growth during Emmerling’s 35-year tenure, which she attributes to the organization’s dedicated staff and board leadership that has “an openness to embrace change and address the more challenging parts of prevention of gender-based violence.” The Blackburn Center team includes licensed therapists, advocacy and counseling staff as well as educators to accommodate the increased requests for services in K-12 classrooms. The center has renovated its emergency shelter; expanded its outreach to underserved populations; expanded space for group activities such as trauma-informed yoga; and added a team of attorneys to provide civil legal services. Most recently, it expanded its therapy team.
Emmerling said she strives to be resilient, strategic, supportive of staff growth and committed to life-long learning. Those qualities have been tested by COVID-19. “In this new normal, we have been challenged to adapt how we both provide services to victims in need and engage the community in our education and primary prevention services,” she said. “We’ve developed innovative ways to provide services and have found that these new initiatives address issues such as access to services that pre-date the pandemic.”
Emmerling’s expertise is much sought after. She served on the board of the PA Coalition Against Rape for more than 20 years, with four of those years in the role of president.
Emmerling has been frequently recognized for her work, receiving the Athena Award in Westmoreland County in 2001 and the Anne Pride Award for Leadership from the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, among others.
Emmerling offers this advice to women in business: “Be open to others around you and build a network of mentors. There are many smart, innovative, visionary women who are eager to share their experiences and perspective.”
What’s the best advice she’s ever received? “When you make a commitment, follow through.”
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