Here is a re-post from the Roanoke Times


Sarah Bruyn Jones, Roanoke Times

October 29, 2011

The Roanoke area’s sexual assault crisis center is now an independent nonprofit, as it seeks to maintain its long-standing presence in the community.

The Sexual Assault Response & Awareness program, or SARA, operated out of Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare until July 1, when it separated from the agency. On Friday the organization held an open house and silent auction at its new offices at 3034 Brambleton Ave. S.W. in Roanoke.

The process toward separation began in the fall of 2009, when Blue Ridge said it could no longer subsidize the administrative costs for running SARA.

Blue Ridge sought to find another administrative home for the group, but by this year, it had become clear that SARA would have to stand on its own, said Teresa Berry, who has worked for the program for a quarter-century and is now the executive director of the newly formed nonprofit.

The new organization incorporated with the state in March as Sexual Assault Response & Awareness Inc.

By May, SARA had successfully filed with the Internal Revenue Service for nonprofit status.

SARA, which provides free support services to sexual assault victims including counseling and accompaniment to court hearings, continues to operate with grants from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Berry said. SARA gets about $165,000 annually from three DCJS grants, she said.

But that doesn’t cover general fund expenses, including legal fees and other startup costs, she said. To cover those expenses, Berry has put in about $8,000 of her own money and received another $6,000 from donors.

Friday’s open house was intended, in part, to kick off some needed fundraising. Berry said she would like to add three more people to her staff, which currently includes herself and one other person.

SARA serves about 350 victims a year and has recently seen an increase in need, particularly among young adults and teenagers, she said.

“We need to be doing more education,” she said.