A new organization with nearly the same name as its predecessor is quickly moving forward to reopen doors for domestic violence victims.
Erin Wilde officially stepped down recently from the board of Citizens Against Spouse Abuse (CASA) to create CASA II, a new organization providing the same services.
The name change is purposefully subtle, despite negativity and possible distrust of the organization associated with the State Law Enforcement Divisions recent investigation into CASAs misuse of funds. Joanne Patterson, the former director of the non-profit organization, was charged last week with embezzlement of public funds. Arrest warrants accuse Patterson of using $29,600 of grant monies from the S.C. Department of Public Safety intended to purchase two vans for other purposes.
Wilde said she is moving farther away from the allegations every day as she works to reincarnate the advocacy organization, though she still said it may take time for the community to rally.
With the stuff thats happened and the bitter taste its left in peoples mouths, Im sure there are questions, she said. I wanted to keep the name because we have the same needs and offer the same services.
Keeping the name could make recognizing the organizations purpose easier, said Alicia Rahiem, former assistant director of CASA.
That name still sticks in peoples minds, she said. I dont think its always going to be associated with the negative. There are many people that have benefitted from CASA. Now, even though its CASA II, its something easy to remember.
Wilde hopes to earn trust for the organization quickly, and said a lawyer and accountant are volunteering time to the organization. The attorney, she said, will ensure the organization is set up correctly as a non-profit while the accountant will oversee the handling of all donations and grants.
Thats really reassuring for me and I hope for the community, she said.
Wilde, a victim of domestic violence herself, said she hopes the need for the organization and counseling services moves the community past the allegations of wrongdoing by the former group.
There are victims on the street that need a safe house, so lets pick up and go from there, she said.
Domestic violence makes up 7 percent of all calls for service in Horry County, where police responded to 9,036 incidents in 2011 and have already been called to 3,970 through June 12 of this year.
Wilde is not yet sure if the safe houses can be transferred to the new group.
CASAs revenue stream took a hit in 2010, although the number of employees and volunteers was up, according to tax returns for the organization. Data from 2011 was not available. The funding jumped for a year from $710,238 to $793,282 between 2008 and 2009. The next year, total revenues were again $710,238.
Most of the money, about $630,000, paid employees.
Rahiem said those employees were counselors, court advocates and house managers of the shelters. Some employees, like an attorney who helped women get orders of protection, were covered specifically by grants.
Funding from places like Myrtle Beach may be available again, according to city spokesman Mark Kruea. He said the City Council understands the unfortunate need for the services provided by the organization, so $50,000 was set aside in the budget. CASA II would need to formalize non-profit status and ask the city for those funds.
Rahiem said shes still volunteering her time to get volunteers trained and ready to resume some services even if the safe houses cant be opened immediately. That means getting victims help with case management, court advocacy and counseling.
Training started last weekend, and Rahiem said theres several more sessions required.
Her work started 13 years ago after her nephew was killed. Though his death wasnt a result of domestic violence, she said she wanted to be there to help victims.
I saw how victims are treated when theyre trying to go through the judicial process, she said. Unfortunately, sometimes it appears the offender is the priority because they can get the free attorney.
She has no interest in becoming a director of the CASA II, but said she wants to stay focused on court advocacy, which she said is like a support system for victims going through the judicial process.
Rahiem said there can never be enough volunteers and any help would be accepted.
If the safe houses are transferred to CASA II, Rahiem said there will be a need for carpenters or handy-men, and once shelters are opened food donations will be needed.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.