From The Desk of the Executive Director – Dr. Michaela Weber

A New Year is upon us yet again – funny how that seems to happen so quickly! 2018 was another busy year for us here at VSS…..We started our year out with a record attendance for the agency at our annual Voices of Victims luncheon, with Captain Chris Vanghele of the Newtown Police Department as our Keynote speaker; an amazing man with conviction and the highest of values – a true hero! Shortly thereafter we graduated from the Essentials of Development training program, put on by The Murdock Trust, through the’ dream-teamwork’ of VSS Board and staff, and then presented at the International Society for Performance Improvement’s Annual Conference on our progress and experiences through their 2017/2018 community service project.

We then spent the next six months growing our Training program exponentially through a special project grant that was awarded to us by the Office of Crime Victims Advocacy. This grant allowed members of our team to travel the state training new Victim Advocates in the field, and teaching classes such as Victims’ Rights, The Criminal Justice System, Identity Theft and Emotional Wellness for Helping Professionals. Within that 6-month time frame, we were able to train roughly 850 people. In the Summer of 2018, we expanded our service further by adding a King County location to our VSS portfolio, opening up an office space in Pioneer Square in the Maynard Building!

Additionally, in the latter months of 2018, we were informed that we were recipients of the Boeing Employee Credit Union’s “People Helping People” Community Award. It was an extreme honor to receive this $15,000 grant and to celebrate with so many other wonderful change-makers in the Region! Finally, we also secured grant funding through the Anti-Terrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) to provide free trauma-informed therapy to those who were affected by the Cascade Mall tragedy from September of 2016. We are once again honored to be able to reach and serve more people in our community.

We are ever-grateful for the support we continue to receive from our funders and donors. Without your continued engagement and commitment to a healthy community, we truly would not be able to provide the services that we do. In 2018, we provided outreach services for 10,440 individuals, for a total of 3,897 hours of crime victim advocacy. We also responded to 3,514 individual callers on our statewide 24/7/365 Hotline. Furthermore, our volunteer pool saw a 60% increase which is incredibly exciting! Volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits, and we salute and appreciate you, wonderful world-changers!!!

While we certainly celebrated some great joys and successes in 2018, we also shed some tears and shared some heartache. In September, we faced the sudden and unexpected passing of our dear friend and Board member of 7 years – Detective Scott Tompkins . His memory, however, lives on every day as we continue to honor his work with crime victims and survivors. Plans are underway to open another VSS location in Oak Harbor, specifically to serve residents of Island County who have been hurt or harmed by general crime. ‘The Tompkins Project’ – as it has been named – is hoped to be up and running by mid-to-late February, so stay tuned!

The events of this past year led me to do some reflection about “time”.  At first glance, it is a simple, four-letter word, used so frequently, yet it holds so much value. It is something we are not promised a set amount of. Ours could be up at any time and we have little say or control over the matter. I once heard someone say that you should live every day as if it is your “re-do”….as if you have been given the opportunity to come back and live it a second, and final, time. This way, you could have the opportunity to fix things you might have messed up the first time around – to mend hearts you may have broken, take back ugly words you may have said, seize missed opportunities, say “I love you” or “I forgive you” to someone who needed to hear it, or even to simply notice someone you should have noticed before. As a whole, you would have the chance to live your days with the most positive of perspectives, to take risks and to follow your dreams and intuitions – something you might have been too nervous about doing the first time around.

But the reality is that we don’t get a rewind or a replay – a chance to go back and “re-do” our day. Time goes by fast, and life essentially is short (shorter for some than others), and so I encourage you to do your best to enjoy every moment as it comes. Listen with more attention, laugh with more abandon and spread contagious smiles and laughter. Learn to appreciate what you have, before TIME makes you appreciate what you had.

I wish you all a prosperous and fulfilling 2019!

My best, always,

~ M