By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Sturgeon Victim Services (SVS) paid a visit to Council May 28 to bring councillors up to date on the program, its mission and how the Town of Morinville’s grant funding is used. Morinville RCMP Sergeant Mark Mathias, who sits on the SVS board, joined Program Coordinator Donna McPherson in making the presentation.
The volunteer-run organization operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year and works directly with the RCMP. McPherson said SVS might be called upon to work with victims immediately when an incident occurs or within a day or two, depending on the assessed need.
In addition to offering 24-hour crisis response support, McPherson said SVS deals with post trauma support, bereavement support, court accompaniment, and providing basic information on general RCMP procedures and referrals to other agencies, including the food bank and other social agencies.
McPherson said it is not uncommon for advocates to stay in contact with victim for as long as two years, particularly when assisting victims through the court process.
Special volunteers needed
Sturgeon Victim Services utilizes two types of volunteers: those who serve on the organization’s board and advocates, the latter are the volunteers who work with victims.
“It takes a special person who can go out and deal with someone else’s tragedy,” McPherson said of the advocates, adding anything the advocates do with a victim is kept in confidence.
McPherson explained the process of becoming a volunteer advocate is not a fast or easy process. In addition to an 80-hour, government mandated course, would-be volunteers must go through a RCMP security clearance, a process that takes six to seven months.
The online training for advocacy includes lessons on the criminal justice system, family violence, crisis support, home security, sudden death, suicide, sexual assault, bereavement, and trauma management.
“Someone who wants to volunteer with us has to really want to volunteer with us,” McPherson said, adding advocates are only ever identified by a first name.
Funding through varied sources
Sturgeon Victim Services receive one third to one half of their annual funding from the Alberta Solicitor General’s Office. In addition to annual grants from the Town of Morinville and Sturgeon County, SVS relies on funding from the business community, a large amount of which is raised through an annual golf tournament.
Those interested in supporting or volunteering with the organization can contact SVS at 780-939-4590 or visit them online at www.sturgeonvictimservices.org.