PITTSBURG, Kan. — Every year, nonprofits rely on grants for survival, but this year, in particular, charities are relying on them more than ever.

On Thursday, Gov. Laura Kelly announced 69 nonprofits from across the state that would receive Federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Assistance grant awards. Roughly $21 million will be split between the organizations and two Crawford county nonprofits were in the mix: Children’s Advocacy Center and Safehouse Crisis Center.

“VOCA funds help crime victims and survivors stabilize their lives after a victimization; understand and participate in the criminal justice system; and restore a measure of security and safety to their daily lives,” a press release from Gov. Kelly’s office said.

Children’s Advocacy and Safehouse are regular recipients of VOCA grants and will be receiving over $420,000 between the two of them. Governor Laura Kelly said in the press release that these grants are crucial to helping the victims of crimes.

‘“The services made available by these funds will go towards supporting the many survivors of crime each year,”’ Kelly said in the release. “I know these organizations will use the grants to continue providing the necessary care to people who count on these services in the aftermath of their traumatic experiences.’”

Safehouse, which is based in Pittsburg, is a crisis center for people fleeing any type of violence. They provide emergency shelter, help victims plan their next steps and generally just help them get back on their feet.

“We provide services to victims fleeing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking,” Safehouse Executive Director Brooke Powell said. “It’s tailored to what the survivor needs.” 

According to Powell, in some years Safehouse doesn’t get all of the money it requests, but this year it was able to. She said the VOCA grant money will mostly be used to cover salaries for Safehouse’s advocates, who work directly with victims.

“This grant pays for those staff’s salaries. Those staff are incredibly vital to the work we do,” Powell said. “These funds are just a huge piece in us being able to provide this work.”

While grants like these are crucial to Safehouse, Powell said for them a bigger concern at the moment is getting victims to reach out to them in the midst of the pandemic.

“We’re worried that survivors aren’t reaching out to us,” she said. “Even though with the pandemic, we’ve had to adapt the way we do things, we are still here and ready to help.”

The other Crawford County organization receiving a VOCA grant is the Children’s Advocacy Center, also based in Pittsburg. Children’s Advocacy Center is an organization that helps children who are victims of sexual abuse—also severe physical abuse and instances where a child may have witnessed a violent act—by conducting initial interviews with the child and referring the child for critical care such as counseling and medical exams.

“We get referrals from DCF and law enforcement when there is a child sexual abuse case or a severe physical case, and then we provide advocacy to the child and their families throughout the whole process,” Children’s Advocacy Executive Director Whitney Lovell said.

Children’s Advocacy uses VOCA money to help pay for its staff as well as critical training, Lovell said.

“Another grant went another way a few years ago and so this has really helped us be able to keep employees,” Lovell said.

This year more than ever Children’s Advocacy is relying on grants such as VOCA as it had to cancel its largest fundraiser, and one of its largest sources of support: the Blue Jean Ball.

“Our biggest impact for COVID right now is that we had to cancel our fundraiser — our biggest fundraiser that typically brings in $30,000 to $40,000 a year, ” Lovell said. “So that’s our biggest thing is trying to make sure we can keep our door open and our lights on.”