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3/16/2014 6:00:00 AM
Kingman nonprofit Sarah's House on life support
Victim's first stop is on its last legs; doors could close in May
DOUG McMURDO/Miner
Debbie Moos, the executive director of Sarah’s House, shows off the children’s room at the agency that performs a vital service to Mohave County residents.
DOUG McMURDO/Miner
Debbie Moos, the executive director of Sarah’s House, shows off the children’s room at the agency that performs a vital service to Mohave County residents.
Donate
To donate to Sarah's House - no donation is too small - stop by the home at 1770 Airway Avenue, behind the senior center, send a check - zip code 86409 - or go online to www.sarahshouseaz.org

Doug McMurdo
Miner Staff Reporter


KINGMAN - Sarah's House has enough funds on hand to survive for two more months barring an infusion of cash.

Donations have withered, grants have all but vanished and Mohave County chips in some money to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit known as a child and family advocacy center.

Some would argue taxpayers shouldn't fund nonprofits, but Sarah's House provides services that are required by state law, which mandates Mohave County provide funding.



Not a shelter

Sarah's House is not a shelter for abused women, a perception many in the area have. Instead, the women and children they serve are victims of sexual assault or child abuse, and they are there for however long it takes to be interviewed or examined. Rarely does 24 hours go by before that happens.

"We are an evidence collection facility," said Executive Director Debbie Moos.

Sarah's House was named for a 10-month old girl who, along with her twin sister, was sexually assaulted by their mother's boyfriend. Sarah died. Her sister survived the vicious crime.

The incident spawned the push for Sarah's House, which opened in 2000 at 1770 Airway Avenue. Victims are provided a clean, less sterile and more comfortable environment in which to be interviewed by law enforcement or examined by a registered nurse.

"It's better than being at a police station or a hospital," said Moos. "We collect evidence for crime victims in a friendly environment so they are not re-victimized."

Evidence of rape or abuse is collected in an exam room where the victim and nurse are allowed complete privacy.

A brightly colored children's room is full of stuffed animals. Down the hall, Moos proudly shows off the new room for teenagers - the most difficult age group to reach, she said - which features a donated flat screen television and an overstuffed sectional.

"The perception of what Sarah's House is, is we house victims," said Frank Gurzi, chairman of the nonprofit's board of directors.

When people do discover the services the facility provides, they are more apt to get involved, he said.

More than 4,000 victims from throughout Mohave County have been examined, interviewed by law enforcement and Child Protective Services - or both - since Sarah's House opened.

Last year, Sarah's House facilitated examinations of 50 sexual assault victims and performed 70 forensic interviews of victims of either sexual assault or child abuse.

Most of them are children.



A friendly environment

Sarah's House is affiliated with law enforcement, the Mohave County Attorney's Office, Child Protective Services and the FBI, due to cases that arise on tribal lands.

Police officers and CPS caseworkers will bring victims to Sarah's House or another facility in Lake Havasu City, the only two agencies in the county that provide the service.

There, they conduct interviews - or request a physical examination by a nurse - in a setting that puts victims more at ease.

Moos said Sarah's House serves two key functions: As the first stop on the road to recovery, Sarah's House can help victims begin the healing process. At the same time, the welcoming environment has resulted in more successful prosecutions.

"When they first come here they go to the play room. We want to develop a relationship first and we've found they're more willing to talk to officers."

Sarah's House also provides public service in area schools with the Speak Up Be Safe (SUBS) program, which teaches children how to prevent sexual and physical abuse.

There is no rhyme or reason to the daily routine. Moos said they could see nobody for two weeks and then get seven sexual assault victims in 10 days.

There are two constants: More victims arrive at Sarah's House in the first weeks after school starts than at any other time of the year - except for the holidays.

"When kids go back to school, we get busy," said Moos. They start reporting what happened over the summer break.

"The holidays are tough," said Gurzi. Moos attributed the up-tick in incidents to stress.



Following the money

Arizona statutes require counties to pay for the cost of evidence collection in cases of sexual assault and child abuse and Mohave County complied until 2010, providing Sarah's House with roughly $100,000 a year.

Budget cuts that year wiped out the annual payment.

Instead of providing Sarah's House with adequate funding, the county the last four years paid $350 for every forensic examination, which cost $850.

The county's portion goes to the nurse who performs the examination. Sarah's House picks up the remaining $500.

While the community has donated freely and generously to Sarah's House over the years, it was never enough to sustain the agency long-term.

Now, donations could be the only hope. Gurzi said Sarah's House banked most of the money that has been donated, but after four years enough to survive for two more months is all that remains.

Sarah's House is currently in negotiations with Mohave County, hoping supervisors will approve paying $650 per exam.

A rape exam at a hospital emergency room could cost between $2,000 and $3,000, so the county has some motivation to negotiate, according to Gurzi and Moos.

But Gurzi made it clear that while Mohave County must pay for evidence collection, the board of supervisors does not have to use Sarah's House. They could send victims to Lake Havasu City.

Sarah's House has expenditures of about $10,000 a month. Five-thousand dollars pays the salaries of three employees and the remaining $5,000 goes to equipment and supplies, maintenance, and to pay advocates who open Sarah's House "at all hours of the night" in order to conduct an examination.



Search for cash

The agency's two big fundraisers each year, a golf tournament May 31 and a big gala set for Oct. 18, used to garner thousands of dollars, but the events have not fared as well the last few years.

Grants have fallen off. They either no longer exist or the qualifications required changed, knocking Sarah's House out of contention. At any rate, the bulk of grants that are available won't be available until the end of the year.

"If we can get through this year, we'll be all right I think," said Gurzi.

In addition to negotiating with the county and planning fundraisers, Gurzi said Sarah's House has been in contact with Mayor Janet Watson to see if Sarah's House qualified for city funding or some other assistance. They've approached the Hualapai Tribe and await an answer.

Kingman Regional Medical Center and the $1,500 monthly donation is a benefactor Sarah's House appreciates, said Moos.

"KRMC has been awesome."

A plan to work with other local businesses is in the works.

"We've done everything we can, I think," said Gurzi. "Now, it's up to the people of Kingman and the rest of Mohave County."



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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014
Article comment by: M.E. Lewis

Wow, I tried to donate $200. at Christmas to Sarah house, no one ever called me back.
Finally donated it elsewhere. Now I know $200. is not much to them, but the other organization appreciated and I received a nice had written thank you card.


Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: Desertrat in Arizona

The article mentioned another victim center in Lake Havasu. We were told the county never provided any funding to them (outside the exams), How can the county officials justify providing additional funding to only one agency in the county when there are two performing the same service to law enforcement and the community?

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: Elfako Denamo

Since it isn't possible to edit: obviously that should read "V Stokes & Frances Perkins" below when referring to their replies.

Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: Elfako Denamo

V Perkins & Francis Stokes responses to me are correct. The Community Services Dept Director does not make $250K, according to "Changes in Mohave County chain of command eyed" (KDM article, by staff reporter Suzanne Adams-Okrassa, 2/14/2013) she was at that time scheduled to make "only" $137,280 annually. Up to you to decide if you think that is appropriate, and relevant. I think it is definitely not, and is, respectively.

Good luck on the fundraising.


Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: Frances Perkins

@ elfako

Sorry, there is absolutely no one in The County who has a $250,000 base salary. No one. Your name is your post. The County used to support Sarah's House but went el cheapo in a pique.


Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: V Stokes

"quarter of a million dollars in annual base salary now paid to the Director of Mohave County's Community Services Department"

Perhaps you would like to elaborate on this statement? A department head makes far more than than the County Manager?? I find this hard to believe. Could you provide a source for the info?


Posted: Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Article comment by: Supporter Sarahs House

The Gala will be back in Kingman this year at the Central Commercial Building downtown! October 18th is the date!

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THAT part 2

Did I miss something? ... "Instead of providing Sarah's House with adequate funding, the county the last four years paid $350 for every forensic examination, which cost $850." I don't think the Sheriff has anything to do with the funding for Sarah's House and not all cases that run through Sarah's House are generated by the County. I think the real issue is the economy and shrinking budgets. I bet if the Sheriff could he would try to support Sarah's house and the Cornerstone Mission shelter and the St Vincent De Paul and all the other good causes in our community - the problem is he doesn't have the funding to provide that support and evidently it is becoming more difficult for the "County" to do the same thing. It's sad that Sarah's House is in great need, but I doubt it is the Sheriff's fault.

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: Elfako Denamo

Perhaps some portion of the quarter of a million dollars in annual base salary now paid to the Director of Mohave County's Community Services Department could be used to support this service and help these victims of criminal abuse? Hmmm. But no, nevermind, I guess not, since a small local County department head really must rake off more from the administrative pass-through of federal “anti-poverty” programs than equivalent positions in communities ten times this size, and more than cabinet level national officials reporting directly to the President of the United States such as the Secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. ...

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: Jack a Lope

"how did you come up with that"
Instead of providing Sarah's House with adequate funding, the county the last four years paid $350 for every forensic examination, which cost $850.


Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: M e

Another way of making money.

Posted: Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Article comment by: Just Heard

Oddly enough the subject of the gala came up a few weeks ago and I was told it was coming back to Kingman though I can't remember which downtown venue.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: glad I went to rocket science school .....

Presumably if evidence is collected, we are talking DNA among other factors, and thus some enhanced prospects for prosecution and conviction. Therefore, why on earth are the perpetrators not billed for these expenses (ALL the expenses!)? Even if we're talking about a mother's meth addict boyfriend - hello, he knows how to get money for meth, let him pay for the forensic exam of his victim. Oh, and I probably wanted to say something about a guy who would rape an infant in a crib, but years of really good English language upbringing just failed me.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH THAT

Jay Fleming - Where did you read that the Sheriff pays $350 per exam and how do you conclude that the Sheriff's priorities are misdirected?

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: Keep the fundraising KINGMAN

I know of several who quit going to the gala event since it was moved to Laughlin, me included. Kingman now has Beale Celebrations.

Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: Fund This Cause

Its good to look everywhere you can for donations. Unfortunately this is one of the most depressed counties in the country. With economic challenges here in Mohave County there's also a great deal of idiots who prey on our little ones. Especially when it involves family its got to be very difficult for the victims to go through the process. The non-profit seems to be very well supported by our local hospital. I recommend the staff at Sarah's house try more collection boxes at as many retail locations as possible. That way peoples change could be dropped in the bucket followed up with more informative articles like the one today with KDM.
Help the public understand you role and ask for their change. Focus on the big fish too of course. Best of luck


Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: More questions than answers

Yes, we too thought that this was a shelter for abused women and children.

The article says, "Arizona statutes require counties to pay for the cost of evidence collection in cases of sexual assault and child abuse and Mohave County complied until 2010, providing Sarah's House with roughly $100,000 a year."

Answer seems obvious, this is a county responsibility. 100 grand a year is peanuts to the county's budget. Don't shift the responsibility by appealing to sympathetic citizens' pocketbooks.


Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: Jay Fleming

Really, the sexual assault of a child is only worth $350 to our sheriff?

We see where the priorities are for law enforcement in Mohave County.


Posted: Monday, March 17, 2014
Article comment by: Help the Children

"two big fundraisers each year, a golf tournament May 31 and a big gala set for Oct. 18"
Suggestion: family oriented event =
live music fundraiser in the parking lot of the facility to raise awareness. Let the children sing some songs, let survivors tell share their stories.


Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Article comment by: Dawn Brannies

We have several fund raiser planned. Please like "Sarah's House" on Facebook for event information and status updates.

Posted: Sunday, March 16, 2014
Article comment by: Sad To Hear

Will there be any other fundraiser events planned???



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