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County prosecutor’s office awards grants for domestic violence victim services

Steve Descano named United Community’s Progreso Center as a recipient of a Community Partnership Grant (courtesy Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney)

A trio of local nonprofits that assist people who have experienced abuse and domestic violence got a little funding boost last week, courtesy of Fairfax County prosecutors.

On Thursday (Dec. 15), the Fairfax County Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney named the Women for Afghan Women (WAW) and United Community’s Progreso Literacy and Citizenship Center as the inaugural recipients of its new Community Partnership Grants, which are intended for organizations that serve victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and crimes against children.

Funds were also awarded to SafeSpot, which provides advocacy and support services to child victims of sexual and physical abuse and their families.

“My office is proud to partner with these three organizations that provide resources for victims,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano said in a news release. “I am personally grateful for the work they do in our community — supporting victims throughout the legal process and helping them on the path to healing and recovery is critical work and will help make our community stronger and safer.”

The $8,000 grants are funded by proceeds from asset forfeiture, where law enforcement can seize and retain or sell property involved in a crime. Descano’s office didn’t share how much it gets from forfeitures but said it can grant up to $25,000 per year.

In Virginia, forfeited assets and the proceeds from any sales are put into a Department of Criminal Justice Services fund and then distributed back to the agencies that participated in the investigation that led to the seizures.

The money must be used “to promote law enforcement,” which could include victim services and other efforts to build relationships and encourage cooperation with the community, per state law.

The application for the Community Partnership Grants program asked organizations how they would use the grant to “support law enforcement, or improve the relationship between law enforcement and the Fairfax community.”

According to its website, SafeSpot is partnered with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and the Fairfax County Police Department, among others, as part of its work to help victims and their families navigate criminal investigations and court proceedings.

Though headquartered in New York, WAW established an office in the Springfield area earlier this year that provides basic needs support, immigration-related legal services, counseling and educational classes to Virginia’s Afghan community, which is the second-largest in the country.

“The need for direct and comprehensive services has only increased since last summer,” WAW Program Manager Mariam Kakar said. “As the only Afghan-led organization that supports survivors of domestic violence, we look forward to using these funds to help many individuals and families in our local community.”

Founded in 1969 by faith groups and volunteers, United Community offers supportive services, such as food assistance, crisis intervention and more, with the goal of ending poverty, specifically along the Route 1 corridor.

Located in the Gerry Hyland Government Center in Mount Vernon, the Progreso center provides education, citizenship classes and legal services to immigrants, including survivors of domestic violence.

“As the leading human services non-profit agency in southeastern Fairfax County, United Community seeks out opportunities to collaborate with our allies throughout the community,” said Alison DeCourcey, the nonprofit’s president and CEO. “We’re grateful to Commonwealth’s Attorney Descano and his office for this grant, which will dramatically help us improve our reach and services to immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence.”

Descano, who is planning to seek reelection next year, hopes to make the community partnership grants an annual program, according to his office.

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