SARP Center is worthy of your support

Furlough days have become afact of life for many organizations trying to survive in this rotten economy. But it’s one thing for a library or a museum or a city office to occasionally shut down. It’s another when an organization that provides safety net services for people in need is forced to cut its hours.

That, unfortunately, is the situation facing the Sexual Assault Recovery and Prevention Center of San Luis Obispo County, which recently announced that it will close its doors the second and fourth Monday of every month.

The nonprofit organization, which has an annual budget of about $400,000, is coping with a $68,000 deficit — aresult of areduction in federal and state grants, as well as a less-than-anticipated response to local fundraising efforts.

SARP’s 24-hour crisis phone line will still operate, and staff members will continue to be available to accompany clients to court appearances, law enforcement interviews and medical exams on furlough days.

However, some of the other services provided by the nonprofit — such as counseling sessions and educational presentations to schools, businesses and community organizations — will not be scheduled on those Mondays. That’s going to be a hardship for clients, especially those who have arranged for counseling sessions on those days.

The furlough days will be in effect through the end of June, when the organization will reassess the situation.

Among other pieces of information, it’s waiting to hear whether the federal Violence Against Women Act, which provides $180,000 in annual funding to the SARP Center, will be reauthorized. Unfortunately, the legislation is facing a partisan battle in the Senate. We hope that will be resolved, because loss of the funding would be adisaster to the SARP Center, as well as to similar organizations across the nation.

Here’s why we believe continued support for the SARP Center is so important: Since it began operating 35 years ago, the organization has been providing an indispensable service to our community. Over the course of the past year, it served approximately 300 different clients and, in addition, made 329 educational presentations that reached nearly 2,800 people, most of them younger than 18.

It provides these services on a shoestring: There are nine paid staff members; two unpaid interns; and between 40 and 45 volunteers who provide 7,000 hours of service per year.

No nonprofit agency is 100 percent immune from budget cuts, but we believe aservice this important should be able to keep its doors open five days a week.

If you agree, here are ways you can help:

Go to http://www.sarpcenter.org or call 545-8888 to make a donation.

If you own a business, consider sponsoring the Walk a Mile in Her Shoes event taking place in April.

Urge support of the federal Violence Against Women Act.