25th Mardi Gras Raises Record Amount

mardi gras staffThis year’s Mardi Gras Gala was our best ever fundraiser, bringing in $131,000 overall. Over 400 people attended the sold-out March 4 event held at The Tangier in Akron.

Our April Victims’ Rights Luncheon generated $2,550 however all of these funds supported the expenses associated with event.

During March we billed out over $120,000 for our various ongoing Government Grants, which include: VOCA (Victims of Crime Act), grants for VAWA (Violence against Women Act) and JAG (Justice Assistance Grant) thru the Office of Criminal Justice Services, along with local City of Akron programs.

Foundations contributed $5,500 funding thru the Women’s Endowment Fund and Bath Volunteers for Service.  Various individual and corporate donations amounted to $1,500.  The ACME Community Cash back program for this year amounted to $223 thanks to all of those who mailed in their ACME receipts.

Advocate Spotlight

Shannon Conrad Wokojance and Alexandra Potter, Victim Assistance Program advocates assigned to the Akron Police Department, room 935, received the National Organization for Victim Assistance 2017 Exceptional Victim Advocate Award for community-based advocacy.

The advocates’ photos and nominating information was posted on the NOVA web page during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

Shannon recently celebrated her third year anniversary with Victim Assistance Program. Alexandra will celebrate her first anniversary in August.  Both were excited to receive the letter from NOVA, informing them of the recent honor.

“I’ve always thought advocacy was my calling,” Shannon said. “My aunt always said I would be the one in Washington, fighting injustice.”

She said she is pleased that her three years of hard work has been nationally recognized.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work here,” Shannon said. “This is my second home and everyone here is my family.  I wouldn’t get through the day if I didn’t have the people sitting next to me.”

Alexandra knew she wanted to work in the criminal justice field.  She wasn’t sure how until she was offered an advocate job with the Rape Crisis Center of Summit and Medina Counties.

“I didn’t join this field with an exact plan,” she said. “I just knew I wanted to make a difference.”

Before joining Victim Assistance Program, Alexandra worked with the Rape Crisis Center and Battered Women’s Shelter of Medina and Summit Counties.

After joining Victim Assistance Program, Alexandra worked with Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, and Barberton police departments, Akron General Medical Center, Summa Health System, and the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office to develop the PATH (Providing Access to Healing) Center at Akron General Hospital.  The PATH Center provides “quality, trauma-informed, compassionate care to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse and neglect for Summit and surrounding counties, while ensuring the quality of evidence collection,” according to the PATH Center website.

“Anyone who works in the field of victim services knows that our job is often selfless and thankless,” Alexandra said. “We don’t do this work for the recognition, the money, or an award. In all reality, the hours are sometimes long and erratic, the stories are heart wrenching, and vicarious trauma is inevitable.

“Despite the obstacles we face, we will always meet that one person, that one family, that one colleague who re-ignites the fire inside of us to keep striving for better- not for ourselves, but for those we serve,” Alexandra said.

From the Director’s Desk

Welcome to the first of what will be a monthly newsletter, keeping you up to date on what’s happening at Victim Assistance Program.

In 2016, our advocates and trauma counselor helped 5,489 victims of crime, crisis or trauma, some of whom are still receiving services. So far this year, they have added 1,863 new clients, many with ongoing cases.

We want to do more. We know there are portions of the population who are targets of certain crimes and can benefit from specialized services, including teachers and adults over 60.  We know that the family of homicide victims can benefit from specialized programs as well, such as support groups.

To add those and other services, we need to increase revenue and revenue sources. 

In hopes of doing that, we have hired a full time grant writer to apply for every dollar for which we are eligible, and a marketing coordinator to raise our profile in the community.  We’re hiring a Director of Advancement to increase philanthropic support and execute fundraising initiatives, among other duties.

The comment we hear most when we meet people at an event is, “I hope I never need Victim Assistance Program.”

Not only will we be there for them if they do need us, through the generosity of donors, foundations and other sources that can help us increase our revenue stream, we can add services for older adults, teachers and survivors of homicide victims as well.