Bridging the gap from hurt to hope

In Alberta, Vulcan Regional Victim Services Society works to minimize the impact of tragedy

In an emergency, you call 911.

But if you’re in Vulcan County, AB, seeking other crisis response or support, you can call Vulcan Regional Victim Services Society (VRVSS). The organization’s victim services branch began in 2001, making this year its 20-year anniversary.

“We offer support 365 days a year, so we are always available whenever someone needs us,” says Jasmine Rapuano, program manager at VRVSS. “We have an open-door policy.”

Based out of a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) station, VRVSS works closely with the officers and other community branches to receive referrals and assist victims. Throughout COVID-19, the organization adapted to phone consultations and one-to-one support meetings when permitted through their wealth of trained volunteers.

“I have to mention this – we have an incredible volunteer who has been with us from the beginning. So she’s a 20-year veteran,” remarks Rapuano.

The issues that the VRVSS volunteers assist with are diverse. In 2020, they helped 80 individuals through a range of problems and crimes such as mental health issues, assault, domestic violence, theft, and sudden death.

Rapuano is relatively new to her role, having added pandemic management to her day-to-day activities. She says the public awareness that has grown since she started is one of the biggest achievements of VRVSS so far.

“I went around to local businesses and introduced myself, who Vulcan Regional Services is and what we do,” she says. “We put up some posters in an attempt to gain more advocates and volunteers but ended up getting general calls to get to know us better.”

This year, Enbridge gave $5,000 to Vulcan Regional Victim Services Society as part of our commitment to improve quality of life in communities near our operations, including the Blackspring Ridge wind farm in southern Alberta. The donation is helping to pay for VRVSS pamphlets as part of the group’s ongoing community outreach.

Originally, VRVSS had big plans for in-person community engagement, which fell by the wayside amidst a global pandemic. In lieu, the organization is finding other ways to make an impact by using good old snail mail to reach those both familiar and unfamiliar with VRVSS.

“I love sending packages out to people after I speak with them over the phone,” says Rapuano. “Sometimes it’s informational material, and sometimes it’s a care package—basic necessities following a fire, for example.”

As the world continues to open up again, plans are in motion for VRVSS to get back in front of community members on a regular basis. Rapuano is passionate about educating others on topics including Internet vigilance, bike safety, and relationship boundaries.

Even if people aren’t comfortable with calling VRVSS directly, given smalltown connections, advocates are trained to offer more in-depth support from other agencies or support systems if they wish.

VRVSS is always looking for advocates to support victims of crime in Vulcan County.

“My biggest goal is to continue engaging the community so that people have a familiar face and feel more confident coming to and talking with us,” says Rapuano. “If they ever do need us, we want them to know we are here.”