LOS LUNAS — For the second year in a row, Valencia Shelter Services is opening its doors to engage and educate community members about its mission to provide services and support to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.
The second annual VSS open house and FUNdraiser is honoring its forensic evidence services achievements, specifically the opening of a satellite sexual assault nurse examiner — SANE — unit and the national accreditation of its child advocacy center.
“This year, we’re highlighting the SANE unit and the accreditation of our child advocacy center,” said Stephanie Wood, VSS executive director.
Since the CAC was established in 2013, Valencia Shelter Services has hired forensic interviewers to help children in their disclosure of abuse and support law enforcement agencies investigate these crimes in a trauma-informed, child-first way.
“The accreditation means the child advocacy center has been recognized nationally for a healing place for children,” Wood said. “We want to focus on our services that focus on forensics and how important those two are to the improvement of the criminal justice system, to hold perpetrators accountable and keep our community safe.”
The open house, which will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15, at the VSS offices, 445 Camino del Rey, Ste. F, in Los Lunas, is all about community engagement and supporting the services the nonprofit offers its clients.
Wood said last year’s open house brought in about $10,000 to the nonprofit, thanks to corporate and individual sponsors, vendors and community members, and this year’s event was on track to possibly exceed that amount.
“What we learned during the pandemic was clients were coming to us with basic needs that were outside the use of normal (state and federal) grant funds allowed for services,” the executive director said.
Money raised during the open house gives VSS the opportunity to provide clients with items such as household goods, children’s bicycles and appliances which can’t be purchased with grant money.
“This is the extra love on top of what we do,” she said. “This allows our clients to seek services in a whole different way.”
During this weekend’s open house, there will be tours of the offices, CAC and SANE unit.
“This is a dedicated time for the community to see where the most vulnerable get services. It lets them know where we are if they need to refer someone for services or seek them out themselves,” Wood said. “They get to see what the space looks like and feels like.”
The event will feature artists and vendors, food trucks, a silent auction, live music, the Marauders Cosplay Troupe and more.
Silent auction items include original artwork and handmade items from renowned local artists including Roberta Bitterwater Begaye, Risa Taylor and the New Mexico Quilters Association, a certified Isotopes baseball signed by the team, gift certificates to local restaurants, retailers, spas, sporting events and entertainment venues, electronics and more.
To support VSS, visit vssnm.org and click on “Get Involved.”
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.