Boundary County Victim Services champions the well-being of community members of all ages
By Abigail Thorpe
Boundary County Victim Services (BCVS) began as a means to fill a gap that local individuals saw in the community: Bonners Ferry was in need of a support and assistance program for victims of domestic violence. Since its inception, the nonprofit has been providing support, care and advocacy for the local community, providing hope, information, safety and a listening ear to those in need.
The nonprofit first started in 1988 as a crisis line for at-risk youth. It was entirely staffed by volunteers, who kept it up and running 24/7. As those individuals began to realize the greater existing need in the community for support of all victims, they began the evolution of the crisis line to the present program.
BCVS now provides a 24/7 hotline service and referral program, and advocates for victims of all crimes and their families, free of charge.
“It is our goal to come alongside our clients to provide options, resources, and help them navigate systems,” says BCVS Executive Director Becky James. “Our mission is to enhance the well-being of community members of all ages by means of providing nonjudgmental, unbiased, compassionate and accurate services.”
BCVS’ goal is to help serve community members of all ages, and victims of all types of crime, regardless of their need. The 24-hour a day hotline is available for any caller to receive accurate, unbiased information, referrals and confidential, nonjudgmental listening, and is operated by trained individuals who volunteer their time.
“Our program has evolved from a crisis hotline to an office in the courthouse, fully staffed with advocates,” explains James. “Additionally, on-call advocates, as well as hotline volunteers, provide 24-hour service to those needing help during times of crisis.”
BCVS promotes the rights of victims of crime by offering information, support education and assistance that includes community-based advocacy, connection to resources, counseling, court support and 48-hour emergency shelter for victims, their families, witnesses and survivors.
The nonprofit actively works with local offices like the County Prosecuting Attorneys, Boundary County Community Justice, the Boundary County Sheriff’s Office, Bonners Ferry City Police, the City Prosecuting Attorney and Crime Victims Compensation Program to coordinate communication and provide information to victims as they work through the legal systems involved with their situation.
Sadly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for victims services has only increased. Boundary County and other areas have seen a sharp increase in domestic violence and child abuse cases; as normal everyday activities change, families are more confined to the home, and social, economic and health stressors drastically increase.
“We fill a niche in this community that is both necessary and relevant, particularly during these tumultuous times, when we are experiencing a rise in domestic violence and child abuse during the pandemic,” says James. “Our crisis calls have multiplied, indicating a growing need for support of individuals seeking information and assistance with reporting to law enforcement and Child Protective Services, as well as those seeking Civil Protection Orders for safety.”
Throughout the years and various challenges it’s faced, BCVS has learned to adapt and grow in order to successfully address the needs of its community, while working to drive change through outreach and prevention work.
Volunteers and advocates actively participate in the community, providing training and presentations in local schools and throughout the area to foster teen outreach and also create prevention awareness.
Each fall the organization hosts its live auction and fashion show fundraiser, which the community looks forward to as they gather to have fun, socialize and show their support.
Due to COVID-19, this year looks very different for fundraising events, and the nonprofit is forced to reimagine the event for a later date. Though in the initial stages of planning, James hints at a summer event this coming year at an outdoor venue, with a tropical theme everyone will enjoy. “We are very excited about the prospect!” she adds.
The annual fundraiser is just one way the community can support Boundary County Victim Services, which relies heavily on grants, private donations and volunteers. Donations are always appreciated, as the program and services it provides those in the community exists entirely on donations and grants for its survival.
In addition to donations, BCVS has various volunteer opportunities that provide individuals a chance to serve others within the community. Depending on the way in which you would like to serve, there is training provided, and the organization needs volunteers with many different strengths and gifts. “We appreciate the passion and diversity that volunteers bring to our mission,” says James. If you would like to serve through volunteering with BCVS or are in need of information and services, reach out to Becky James at their office in the basement of the Boundary County Courthouse, or call her at 208.267.7334. For immediate help, call the hotline at 208.267.5211.