First Step

First Step

Center for Domestic Violence Services

Photo of the First Step building

First Step is a domestic violence shelter serving Wood, Wyandot, Seneca, Sandusky, and Hancock counties in Northwest Ohio. Since 1980, First Step has provided shelter for victims of domestic violence and their children, 24-hour support line, advocacy, and outreach and support programs for men, women, and children. The first domestic violence shelter built in the state of Ohio from the ground up 4th in the nation.

Our Mission: To provide safety, shelter and services to victims of domestic violence through community resources and collaboration.

Our Vision: For every victim of domestic violence to receive support and empowerment through community education, resources, and advocacy.

First Step is a member of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) Photo of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network logo


When making a change to get out of a bad situation, you start with a step. That’s us – your first step to something better. First Step is a new beginning for victims of domestic violence. We offer advocacy services, case management, shelter services, and more. Today, you can take the First Step toward a healthier and more meaningful life.

Emergency Shelter Services

First Step offers emergency shelter accommodations for individuals who feel their safety is in jeopardy due to family violence. We provide shelter for up to 30 days with continuing assistance as needed. While in shelter, individuals and families have the opportunity to get their life back on track.

Photo of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network logo
Photo of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network logo

Advocacy Services

First Step will assist individuals in need of advocacy services with filing paperwork for protection orders and applying for victim's assistance. Advocates are also available to provide emotional support through court proceedings. First Step's advocates are registered with the State of Ohio.

First Step Provides...


Board Members

The best team in the world.

Our team is dedicated to providing the best possible service to those in need

Photo of Susan Wren

Susan Wren

Interim President

Ms. Susan Wren is the Regional Rental Assistance Manager at Great Lakes Community Action Partnership. She has worked at GLCAP for 10 years and in that role works with agency sub-contractors, data quality and compliance, coordinated entry, training and emergency COVID programs. She is lead of the Homeless Planning Region 2 and the Coordinated Entry Liaison for Region 2. Ms. Wren graduated from Bowling Green State University with a BA in Psychology. Susan has been on the board of First Step since 2019 and is currently serving as Interim President.

Photo of Scott Harlow

Scott Harlow


Scott Harlow has served on the Board of Trustees as Treasurer of First Step since 2011. He has assisted in various Finance and Management capacities and has taken a more active role in some areas of daily operations in recent years.

Scott received his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Bowling Green State University. He became a Certified Public Accountant in 1984 and practiced in Public Accounting for eight years. Since 1992, he has served as Chief Financial Officer for a distributing company headquartered in Fostoria.

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Rebecca Terry


Becky is a nursing instructor at Terra State Community College and a staff nurse at Good Shepherd Home. Her nursing practice experiences include public health, acute care, long term care, mental health, obstetrics, and pediatrics. She is involved at Grace Community Church – Children’s Ministry in Fremont, Ohio. Mrs. Terry graduated from University of Toledo with Bachelor of Science in Nursing in Consortium with Medical College of Ohio. She earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Northern Kentucky University.

Photo of Kevin Risner

Kevin Risner

Board Member

Kevin Risner is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay. He is currently employed at Winebrenner Theological Seminary where he serves as the Student Success and Records Coordinator. Risner has lived or worked within Sandusky or Seneca Counties in the past, serving as a local church pastor, as a substitute teacher, and as a newspaper reporter. Risner also spent a brief season as an employee of First Step, serving in a Community Relations position.

Photo of Elyse Cramer

Elyse Cramer

Board Member

Elyse graduated from Mohawk high school, then went on to Bowling Green University where she received a B.A. in psychology and sociology. Elyse also has her M.A. in Marriage & Family counseling from Wright State University and a Master of Divinity from Winebrenner Theological Seminary. She served for seven years as a counselor and is currently a pastor at Trinity UCC in McCutchenville.

Photo of Lydia Bauler

Lydia Bauler

Board Member

Lydia Bauler is a Wyandot county native and aspiring social worker with a passion for storytelling as healing and empowerment. She earned a B.A. in English Literature from Berea College (Berea, KY). As a student, she had the opportunity to work with the Brushy Fork institute, a nonprofit focused on supporting grassroots community development in Appalachia. After graduating college in ‘17, she has held an eclectic assortment of positions from reporting at the local Review Times to working as a development assistant in higher education on the East Coast. She is excited to have returned to her “homeplace” and get involved in the communities where she grew up.

Team Members

Photo of Amy Kinney

Amy Kinney

Executive Director

Amy has been the director since March 2023 and previously served for several years as the Board President. She has a background in healthcare, higher education, and ministry. Amy has a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management and Master of Science in Leadership from South University and a Master of Practical Theology from Winebrenner Theological Seminary. Amy serves as Pastor for St. John’s United Church of Christ in Fostoria. She has been married over 35 years; she and her husband have three sons and three grandchildren. In her spare time Amy enjoys reading and training Gracie, her yellow lab.

Photo of Mary Jacquot

Mary Jacquot

Shelter Manager

Mary is a resident of Bowling Green and has been with First Step since 2003. She is a mother of three and Grandmother of 7. She has been on the board for H.O.P.E. in the past and a member of Kiwanis. Mary is also a CASA for Wood County and has been for seven years. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education. Mary is a member of Dayspring Church and when not working or volunteering, enjoys painting, reading, and making homemade gifts for family and friends, and most of all spending time with family.

Photo of Kelly Smith

Kelly Smith

Victim's Advocate

Kelly is the Victim’s Advocate at First Step. She has worked at First Step for 3 years. Kelly answers hot line calls, accompanies clients to court, assists clients with navigating and using community resources, helps to maintain our free store, and keeps important inventory of our needs at First Step. Kelly graduated from Owens Community College in 2008 with an Associate’s Degree of Science in Medical Assisting. She is the co-Treasurer, bus driver, and greeter at Fostoria Baptist Church.

Photo of Gracie


Shelter Dog

Gracie is a yellow lab puppy, she spends her workdays at the shelter giving lots of love, chasing a frisbee, and finding free snacks. She is currently in training with the aspiration of becoming a Therapy dog for our clients. One of Gracie’s favorite activities is her lunch time walk in downtown Fostoria; stop and say hi if you see us! Gracie loves small children and cannot wait to be certified so she can spend more time getting to know the children of our clients.


If you are in immediate danger please call 911, for assistance with emergency shelter call our hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you have general questions/inquiries please send an email to

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