Aaron Sackman, 18, grabs a set of hand-sown gift bags Saturday during the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Fair at Memorial Park. The event featured organizations that address issues of crime prevention, safety and recovery, as well as helping with physical, financial and emotional needs in the community. Photo by Sally Ince /News Tribune.
Mary Archibong took her children to Memorial Park to play Saturday morning.
“And this park was having an event,” she said.
So they spent some time visiting Jefferson City’s first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Fair.
Sunshine and cool temperatures Saturday greeted those who visited the fair, which ran from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
“I think the best way to reach (crime) victims is where they are — which is everywhere,” said Kimberly Evans, a Corrections Department Victims Service Coordinator, and the fair’s main organizer. “On a beautiful day in April, where are you going to find people?
“Memorial Park in Jefferson City.”
She wanted an event for “everybody to come to learn — because, chances are, you’re going to know somebody (who’s a victim), or you’re going to be victimized yourself.”
Most victims don’t advertise that status, she said.
“The thing about being a crime victim is, that’s not something we choose to be,” Evans explained, “so it’s really not something you’re going to brag about and go out there and talk about.
“It’s one of those relationships in life that’s completely involuntary — (so) the important thing is to make sure we have lots of people who understand what the resources are and where to refer people — either themselves or somebody who’s close to them.”
Evans said the fair’s main goal was for people “to be educated on some of the resources and educated on the types of things to expect.”
The event attracted displays from a number of organizations that provide resources to the community, including RACS, Missouri Kids First, Parents of Murdered Children and MADD.
Deby Bennett, a MADD victim services specialist, said her organization wants people to remember “the fact that we serve victims in their time of need. (People) come to us and we also reach out to them if we’re aware of it.”
Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America had a booth promoting their Be Smart program.
The national organization began in 2012, after more than two dozen children and teachers were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
The Missouri group is younger — and its Mid-Missouri members just began talking about the Be Smart program a few months ago.
“It is an educational program, to help people understand things that they can do — particularly to keep children safe around guns,” said Barbara Reading, a co-leader of the program along with Freda McKee, who told the News Tribune a main goal is getting people to keep their weapons “secure” in their homes, “so that children don’t have access to them. When children access guns, that often results in injuries or even deaths.
“We talk with parents, and other adults, about making sure that guns are either locked, or in a gun safe, or otherwise secured.”
And they encourage parents to check with each other, so children visiting a friend’s house won’t be in any danger.
It’s not an anti-gun thing, the women said.
Reading explained: “It’s every adult’s right to decide whether they want to own guns or not.
“We’re talking about how you keep (children) safe and make sure that children aren’t harmed by your having a gun in your home.”
Bikers Against Child Abuse came to the fair to spread a different message.
One member, who calls himself “Caveman,” said: “We take kids who are referred to us from other organizations already in place to help kids — like prosecuting attorneys or victim advocates or maybe Family Services’ Children’s Division — and we help those kids through the legal process.
“We spend some time creating a relationship with the kids, so that they know they can trust us, that we can be there for them and they have that support in the courtroom.”
Tanya Edwards has heard about BACA’s work and came to Saturday’s fair “to see what was going on.”
She learned “that there are lots of resources to go to for help — (and) my daughter works with groups that use these kinds of resources.”
Archibong said she also “learned a lot” from visiting various booths at the fair, while her children enjoyed looking at the Jefferson City fire truck and the Cole County sheriff’s car.
Among other law enforcement vehicles displayed were Jefferson City’s Police SWAT vehicle and a large Highway Patrol van.
Lexie Cook, 10, said she most enjoyed “the face paint. It’s super fun.”
Mercedes Breckenridge and Payton Burgess, both 10, said their favorite part of the day’s activities was “the bouncy house.”
Burgess added: “I like helping people out, so I think it’s a good thing that they set up a lot of the stations here.”
And Alexis Davis, 14, found the fair and its exhibits “very interesting. It’s good that they’re able to spread awareness for this kind of stuff.”
Even at 14, Davis said she knows people who’ve been crime- or accident-victims.
And Evans said that’s a main reason the National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Fair was developed.
“We want to be a voice so that when you do have something like (a crime) happen, you know who to turn to, you know who to call,” Evans said. “The victim is the pebble that gets dropped in a pond, and all those ripples are everybody who is around them — and that’s really what it’s about, because you can’t commit a crime against one person.”
In addition to the booths and displays, the Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Fair offered food, prize giveaways, youth activities and the bounce house.
Evans already wants to hold another fair.
“We plan on being out here every year and making it bigger and better so that people will know,” she said, “(and) be open and aware of the people around you.
“And be there to help them if they’re going through this — and don’t let them isolate themselves, because that’s what we tend to do.”
By Bob Watson | News Tribune