SAPARS honors people who ‘Make a Difference’

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LEWISTON — The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services held its annual meeting on Oct. 27 at the Green Ladle. In addition to the election of board members and officers for the coming year, the meeting was a celebration of 30 years of service in Androscoggin County.

A highlight of the meeting was the presentation of Make A Difference Awards in each of the counties served by SAPARS. The awards are given to a person or persons who are not directly connected to the agency but who have either largely supported the work of the agency and/or whose work has made a difference in the lives of sexual assault survivors.

In Androscoggin County, the Make a Difference Award was presented to Dodie Vasilauskas of the Auburn Housing Authority and MaryAnn Crehan of the Lewiston Housing Authority. Both women have helped to establish advocacy services in the housing units that they manage, providing an opportunity for residents to meet with a SAPARS advocate to receive support and assistance. They have also helped to promote the availability of services to their residents, and make referrals to SAPARS when appropriate. This service is part of the Creating Connections work of the agency which is designed to make advocacy services more accessible to traditionally underserved populations.

In Oxford County, the award was presented to Jed French. Jed is an attorney with Powers and French in Freeport, and has lent his expertise and legal assistance to sexual assault survivors in Oxford County who could benefit from legal representation in seeking a protection from abuse order. This assistance is part of a Legal Assistance for Victims grant that trains attorneys specifically about the dynamics of sexual assault and domestic violence and then connects them to service providers to work with survivors. French provides this assistance pro bono, and has been extremely effective in helping to ensure the safety of survivors. French was unable to attend the meeting as he is currently deployed as part of his military service.

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The Make A Difference Award for Franklin County was presented to Lt. David St. Laurent of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department who has served as Franklin County’s Sexual Assault investigator for the past 13 years. His approach to every case assures sensitivity, compassion, diligence and perseverance. His meticulous investigative practices and passion for “getting the bad guy” has provided immeasurable value and safety for the community.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Services is the result of a merger in 2011 between the sexual assault service providers in Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties, previously known as SACC, REACH and SAVES, respectively. SAPARS provides a broad range of support and assistance to anyone affected by sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, stalking, commercial sexual exploitation and sexual harassment throughout the tri-county area, and including the communities of Bridgton and Harrison.

Anyone wishing assistance can call the 24-hour helpline at 800-871-7741.

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