D.A. recognizes crime victims, helpers

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Special to                    The Daily News

District Attorney Warren Montgomery recognized local crime victims and service providers Thursday during a special ceremony at the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center in Covington, as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.

The event brought together about 130 community members, including a number of public officials, to underscore the importance of the justice system establishing trust with crime victims and to help restore their hope for healing and recovery.

“We believe that by better serving victims, we can build trust and help to restore hope in our justice system,” Montgomery said during the hour-long ceremony, held outside the District Attorney’s Office on the second floor of the Justice Center.

Montgomery, the keynote speaker, told the audience that over the past year he has added two full-time Victim Assistance Coordinators, which expanded the program to three coordinators.  He said he also broadened the duties of other workers to include assisting victims.

Montgomery presented the following eight awards:

• Award for Professional Innovation In Victim Services to Pastor Donald Bryan of First Pentecostal Church in Slidell for the Duluth Model domestic abuse intervention program.

• National Crime Victim Service Award to Washington Parish Rape Crisis Center and Executive Director Charlette Fornea for outstanding service to sexual assault victims

• Ronald Wilson Reagan Public Policy Award to Shane O’Hara and his Team 5:18 Ministries for their work to restore inmates’ relationships with their families, who are often the overlooked victims of crime.

• Special Courage Award to Hailey Michelle Brand for her brave testimony in a recent trial.

• Tomorrow’s Leaders Award to Beverly Brown and the group she co-founded, Kids Wanna Help, an umbrella organization that trains youths to raise money to donate to charities of their choice.

• Volunteer for Victims Award to Renewed Hope Center Inc. and Executive Director Trudy Godwin for Camp Hope, a free camp for children who have lost a loved one.

• D.A. Award to Assistant District Attorney Jay Adair and longtime Victim Assistance Coordinator Margaret Kerley for their outstanding service to victims.

The additional speakers included Sheri Eastridge, community educator for Safe Harbor; Paula Charles, managing attorney for Southeast Louisiana Legal Services Inc.; and Samonica Brown, a licensed professional counselor for Northshore Families Helping Families. Those three service providers and a number of others also set up tables and distributed information, educating the public about victims’ rights, protections, and available services.

Other program participants included: Dr. Waylon Bailey, pastor of First Baptist Church in Covington, who gave the invocation; Rev. Dr. Atwood Luter, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church of Bogalusa, who gave the benediction; District Judge William J. Knight, who introduced public officials; the Color Guard units from Bogalusa and Covington high schools; Abigail Williams, a student at Madisonville Jr. High School, who sang the national anthem; and Chad Harry, the band director at Bogalusa High School, who sang “Make Them Hear You.”