Aftermath Awards COVA Scholarship Grant to Victim Advocate Debbie Lewis

Aftermath Sr. Manager Tony Cusinato awards the first COVA grant.

This week we’re showcasing the winning essays we received in response to our very first COVA Scholarship Grant. Like our Why We Serve service grant for law enforcement, the COVA grant rewards individuals who are on the front lines in our communities, working hard to help families in crisis. In partnership with the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, this scholarship grant was specifically geared toward victim advocates living and working in Colorado.

Aftermath selected two winners from the pool of applicants; they are Nicole Deines and Debbie Lewis. Each received $500 toward improving the resources available to Colorado families in need. Today we share Debbie Lewis’ winning essay. Debbie is a victim advocate with the Castle Rock Police Department. She is also a survivor. Read her essay to learn more about her role and how the $500 grant will help her transform the lives of crime victims in the Castle Rock area:

Debbie Lewis, Victim Advocate

Like many other advocates, I’m a survivor.  My advocate’s name was Sandy, and during one of our meetings, she simply said “you have a greater purpose. Find it.” My life’s path was changed; four years later, I landed my first job working with victims of domestic violence. I briefly left my 18-year career in victim services a few years ago, believing I needed a change; that the hours were too long; the emotional toll was daunting; that there was just too much and I wasn’t making an impact. I joined the corporate world.  I was one of hundreds in a cubical working my 40 hours and going home. I had a phone on my desk, but it never rang.  What I did there didn’t matter. It had no meaning to me. Sandy’s words continued to echo in my mind.

I’m back in victim services in a new, exciting role with Castle Rock Police Department. I have a new found energy and drive to continue the work. And yes, the work can be daunting and it feels like the impact may be minimal, but I’m reminded of the story of the starfish, that it matters to this one.  I’m right where I need to be.

If awarded the grant for $500, I will set up an account to assist crime victims in emergent situations and hopefully have the majority of spent funds replenished from COVA. Future donations to the Victim Assistance Unit will also be funneled to this account.

As with most victim service organizations, we sometimes encounter a crime victim who may need immediate financial assistance.  Those needs may be a hotel for an evening when the vouchered motel and shelter is full or a bus ticket to a safer place. We work closely with our local resources including Catholic Charities and the Task Force. However, there are times when local resources are depleted. With an account set up for limited emergency assistance, the VAU can assist crime victims when other resources are exhausted and request reimbursement through COVA’s emergency assistance fund. In many requests, COVA requires the agency to purchase items for the client and then be reimbursed either through COVA or VOCA funds. Currently, in order to access this resource, I must use my personal credit card and be reimbursed by COVA.

A grant award for $500 will allow the VAU at Castle Rock Police Department to open this much-needed account.  It would serve as the beginning of a new way to serve our crime victims.

About Aftermath

Debbie Lewis was one of two victim advocates who were awarded the 2018 COVA Scholarship Grant to continue their efforts to help crime victims. You can read about the second winner, Nicole Deines, here.

Aftermath is a proud supporter of victim advocates and other first responders who are dedicated to assisting families in crisis. If you are an advocate or work for an organization like COVA that helps individuals locate resources to cope with traumatic situations, we’d love to hear your story. Please drop us a line at and tell us about your work. We’d love to know how we can help promote your efforts and better support your local community.