By Mark Hofmann
UNIONTOWN, Pa. — Crime Victims’ Center of Fayette County has not stopped serving those affected by crime throughout the pandemic.
“We are considered essential service,” said Andrea Hibbs, executive director of the Crime Victims’ Center of Fayette County. “When everything started shutting down in March, our doors remained open.”
Although the organization had to modify hours and set up their offices to meet COVID-19 guidelines and procedures, Hibbs said they were dedicated to remain open to assist victims of crime and other individuals by encouraging them to achieve and maintain independence through advocacy, counseling, education, crisis intervention and other forms of assistance.
Services with the Crime Victims’ Center include counseling and therapy, medical advocacy, legal advocacy, victims compensation, education programs, parenting support, public speaking, professional trainings, workshops and support groups.
Many services with clients were handled remotely, but other clients, like children, continued to be seen in person. To ensure safety, the agency did temperature checks and used plexiglass dividers, masks and hand sanitization to keep both children and employees safe.
“We want to be helpful, not detrimental,” Hibbs said, adding that even when the courts were shut down, they continued services. Advocates have returned to court proceedings to accompany victims as magistrate courts catch up on a backlog of cases, she said.
The pandemic, however, hindered the center’s prevention education programs as their prevention specialist could no longer go into the area schools for programs. To continue the program, they’ve started posting prevention-centered videos that appear on the center’s website.
The pandemic also hurt some funding revenue as the only program that comes with a fee, the transparenting program for families going through a divorce and child custody, had its attendance drastically cut because of COVID-19 fears and quarantining.
“We normally have about 20 people in a seminar, but now it’s down to five,” Hibbs said, adding that the fee for that class helped the center with operating expenses, salaries for those who facilitate the classes and classroom materials. “That was a revenue that we could use.”
Even though the center receives grant money, they have services that are not covered by grants; funding for those services come out of money from fundraisers and donations, both of which were reduced due to COVID-19.
Hibbs said donations can be made by going on their website at www.crimevictimscenter.com where donations can be made by PayPal, or checks can be sent to 724-438-1470, 6 Oliver Road, Suite 108, Oliver Square Plaza, Uniontown, Pa. 15401.
Mark Hofmann is a reporter for the Uniontown Herald-Standard, a publishing partner of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story is being simultaneously published. Readers may email him at [email protected]