A place to find healing and hope. This year, the Crime Victim Center of Erie County has been helping people with overwhelming challenges for 50 years.

Find out how the priceless offerings have saved lives, and how the community can get involved in the advocacy too.

Resilience from rotten situations, like sexual abuse.

That is the crime that the Crime Victims Center first started helping victims with, 50 years ago.

And it was after a woman named Joan Martin saw the need.

"She started the very first service, which was a crisis hotline 24/7, which we still maintain to this day," said Paul Lukach, Executive Director. 

While it served as a lifeline, the years produced more services and advocacy for crime victims.

"We are there to help them through any type of medical exam they might need," said Lukach. "We are there to help them with their police reporting. We are there to help them in the justice system."

Paul Lukach has been the Crime Victim Center's executive director for more than a decade. He oversees a seasoned staff of about 30, from the West 18th Street office in Erie, helping children, teens, and adults deal with heavy issues.

"It could be a home invasion. It could be a carjacking. It could be the gun violence that we see, it could be bullying," said Lukach. "If we are serving you as a client, there will never be a charge."

And if there was a charge, Patti Starvaggi might not be the survivor she now is.

"I will never be able to repay them for everything they've done for me," said Patti. "Ever." 

She sought help from the center, years after dealing with sexual abuse at home by the hands of her stepfather.

"My mother was sick with cancer at the time," said Patti.  "So, she wasn't able to be with family all the time."

Group and private counseling—at no charge—helped Patti.

Art therapy and other services were offered too.

"The counselors that are here are not here to solve your problems," said Patti. "They're here to teach you how to get through life."

The Crime Victim Center helped her give back, by becoming a board member.

Patti removed the mask she was under to support the organization that has given her and countless others the strength to survive.

Even if you have never used the services, here's how you can help the Crime Victims Center continue its work. There are two big events coming up:

Bowties and Baseball on June 30th, a ticketed Star Wars-themed event at the Erie SeaWolves game to benefit victims, and Moonlight on the Bay, September 8th.