by Sue Ann Rybak
Being the victim of a crime can be traumatic. It can make you feel vulnerable, angry and helpless. But the staff at Northwest Victim Services (NVS) want you to know you’re not alone.
For more than 30 years, Northwest Victim Services (NVS), 6023 Germantown Ave., has worked to meet the emotional, financial, and safety needs of crime victims in Northwest Philadelphia.
“The NVS family works with crime victims because we want to make a positive impact within our community,” said Melany Nelson, executive director of Northwest Victim Services, which services four police districts – the 5th, 14th, 35th and 39th. “We understand the importance of empowering victims of crime so they can navigate through the judicial system.”
A recent client of NVS, a 36-year-old woman, who was the victim of an assault, told the Local she was grateful to the NVS for all the resources they provided.
“You have so many emotions [after the crime] and you don’t know what to do next,” she said. “You are kind of left there. You have so many questions: What can I do? What can be done? What’s legal?”
The victim, who preferred not to give her name, said she felt like she was alone until police referred her to Northwest Victim Services.
“Once I was in contact with Melany, she told me what options I had,” she said. “She was so compassionate. Melany said ‘if you need anything call me.’ It was easy for me to communicate, knowing that there was somebody here who was willing to listen and guide me through the entire process. I had medical bills that they helped me get taken care of. They helped me get counseling for my myself and my children.
“It was like I had someone holding my hand through the whole process. If I had to try and find out this information on my own, I would have been on the Internet trying to piece things together.”
Unfortunately, she was just one of thousands of victims of crime in our area.
Last year, NVS provided services to 3,179 crime victims from the Northwest Philadelphia area. Approximately 6.2 percent of the clients served were from the Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy including 26 residents from the 19118 ZIP code, 165 clients from the 19119 ZIP code and 129 from the 19150 ZIP code, according to Nelson.
Nelson said funding for NVS is “crucial” because all of its services are free. She noted that while it does receive some state and federal funding, it relies on fundraisers and grants to fill the gap in funding.
Money raised through fundraisers and grants helps support funds to provide 24-hour hotline support, counseling, court accompaniment, financial assistance, information and referral services at no cost to victims of crime.
Recently, NVS received a $2,000 grant from Chestnut Hill Community Fund.
“Northwest Victim Services is truly grateful for organizations such as the Chestnut Hill Community Association because they make it possible for us to fill any funding gaps should one arise,” Nelson said. “We are honored when local businesses support our efforts in trying to make a difference in the lives of residences and victims of crime.
“There are many victims who will call just to say ‘thank you’ to our wonderful victim advocates, Alfreda Strand and Theresa Youngblut. The NVS Court Advocate, Mildred Yarde, is appreciated in so many ways. It can be a trying experience for victims to testify in court. They are happy to know someone is there for them and will assist them when needed. All of the NVS staff go above and beyond what is required.”
Besides providing services for victims of crime and their families, NVS works with the police, elected officials, churches, schools and other non-profits such as Center in the Park to educate the public about crime prevention and safety in the community.
Nelson said NVS is constantly looking for ways to provide resources and help to the youth of Northwest Philadelphia.
The Stand for Something Program is a youth program that seeks to empower students and their families by educating them about bullying, crime prevention, drug prevention, and other health issues.
NVS will hold their next Stand for Something event on Saturday, August 1, from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. at Finley Recreation Center, 7701 Mansfield Ave.
La Salle University student Jasmine Patterson, who is majoring in social work and interned with NVS last year, said the program is designed to help foster meaningful relationships between youth, police and other community organizations.
“We want to educate kids on how to decrease their chances of being a victim of crime,” she said.
“Some of these kids don’t even know how to approach a police officer, because the only interaction they ever had in their neighborhood with law enforcement was negative.”
Nelson added that the program provides youth an opportunity to talk to local elected officials, local police officers, clergy, business owners and local residents “about what we can do to better the communities in which they live so they feel safe.”
She said there is no set agenda.
“It’s really just a fun community event with lots of food, music, dancing, face painting and other family-friendly activities for everyone,” Nelson said.
She noted that NVS will also be giving out a limited number of T-shirts that encourage youth to Stand for Something Positive.
“We plan to have information tables on bullying and crime prevention,” she said.
Nelson added that Saturday’s exhibitors will address other safety topics, as well as offer services such as free fingerprinting for children.
She said these services are “vital” because they educate people on how they can decrease their chances of becoming a victim.
“We cannot prevent crime,” she said, “however, we can educate youth, seniors and the residents of Northwest Philadelphia.”
For more information on Northwest Victim Services go to northwestvictimservices.org or call 215-438-4410.