Melissa Centi: Here to help crime victims
How many people do you know that have been a victim of crime? I bet it is more than you think. In fact, I cannot think of anyone I know who doesn’t have a story to share about themselves or someone they care about becoming a victim. I am constantly hearing about horrific crimes that happen every single day.
My name is Melissa Centi. I am the founder of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called The Victim Advocacy Project. Our mission is to provide victims of crime and their families with resources and funding to navigate through their trauma.
I started this nonprofit to be able to actually do something proactive for people at the end of the story they share with me.
I remember the first time I handed my card to a woman at the end of her rope with the abuse she was facing on a daily basis and the fear she felt for her child. She was barely hanging on. Instead of hugging her and telling her “it would be OK,” like we all do, I offered her my help. I told her contact me when she was ready for help.
She made that terrifying first step and called me. I found her an attorney, I filed a restraining order for her, secured a moving truck, found a safer place to call home, and paid the deposit. I signed her up for counseling and put her toddler in play therapy. I got her a security system in place for safety.
All these things were done for free. Yes, that is right. For free.
I founded The Victim Advocacy Project to help support victims of crime and their family members start their trauma recovery journey. People are typically unaware of the many resources available to them just because they are victims. VAP, as we call it, works in conjunction with the state Board of Victim Compensation in any state by securing and maintaining compensation claims for crime victims.
VAP is located in Nevada County and but has helped victims all over the state of California and nationwide. We are continually looking to raise awareness in California communities for these wonderful resources.
I passionately believe that being a victim of crime is burden enough. My attitude is let VAP help lighten your load on your way to healing.
Through our team of advocates, we can provide help locating therapists, attorneys and support groups for any victim. VAP can secure funds to help victims get medical and dental treatments, medications, counseling appointments, security systems and much more, all at no cost.
We also provide restraining order help from start to finish. VAP offers a court companion program, which allows advocates to attend hearings with victims to offer support and screening to protect them from any interaction with their offenders or the offender’s family.
Right now, our 2021 spring initiative just launched called The Survivor Support Fund. In some cases, victim compensation claims can be denied. If rejection occurs, VAP will appeal the denial but the process can be lengthy, wasting valuable time for therapy work.
Our Survivor Support Fund aids people whose claims have been denied or victims that lack the extensive paperwork for approval with their state compensation program.
I believe the most valuable tool for healing trauma is mental health therapy. We will assist victims in finding therapists and arranging appointments to start healing through counseling. They can then submit their bills to us for reimbursement. No victim should have to pay to heal the parts of themselves that were stolen by their offender.
Donations from our spring initiative will also be used to implement a free virtual survivor support group. This will be a recurring monthly meeting that is available to any victim or to any guest speaker. Our goal is to jump start this awesome program and make a difference in the lives of the people who need it.
I have always felt that this close-knit community protects each other and stands together in the face of adversity. I would like to ask people to spread the word about these resources.
You will be surprised about how many people you can help just by directing them to organizations like mine that provide immeasurable relief during the most difficult times.
Visit our website at http://www.vaphelp.com for more information, a list of qualifying crimes and the costs that we cover. You can contact us via google voice at 424-653-6151 or email us at email@example.com.
Melissa Centi is the founder of The Victim Advocacy Project, based in Nevada County.
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