The Family Abuse Center in Waco is on the verge of addressing a crucial gap in services by starting a rural transportation program for domestic abuse victims, but first the center needs committed volunteers willing to help, officials said.

The 24-hour emergency shelter recently got about a $3,000 grant from the Texas Bar Foundation for fuel, food and other items needed to transport victims from rural parts of the center’s eight-county coverage area, said Micah Titterington, the center’s outreach and legal advocacy director.

The center got the money two weeks ago and is in the early stages of getting the program off the ground, Titterington said. The pilot program is expected to last 12 months.

“The biggest issue is especially nights and weekends,” Titterington said. “During the day, a lot of times we can find a staff member to send, but nights and weekends, we only have one person on staff and they have to stay at the shelter and unfortunately, a lot of times, that’s when most domestic violence happens.”

Demand for the center’s services has increased recently, he said.

At any given time, victims, including children, fill the center’s 64 beds. The center typically has more than 500 women, men and children stay throughout a year, executive director Kathy Reid said.

“We don’t know how many calls we don’t even get, because law enforcement is saying it’s Saturday and the Family Abuse Center only has one person and there’s no way they can respond, and says, ‘Can you wait until Monday?’ “ Reid said. “By Monday, maybe he’s realized he’s crossed the line and terrified her but is now more into what we call the honeymoon stage, and where he’s saying, ‘Baby, baby, I’m so sorry. It’ll never happen again.’ And the next time something happens, she could be dead.”

Officials wrote the grant for four to six emergency transportation trips a month, but demand is likely to increase as word gets out about service, Reid said.

Volunteers will go through background checks and training with the Family Abuse Center before they start. They will transport victims to the shelter from police departments with their own vehicles, she said. Officials are working out a scheduling system and anticipate volunteers would be on call three to four hours at a time, Titterington said.

To volunteer, call the Family Abuse Center at 772-8999 or visit familyabusecenter.org/volunteer and click “Apply Online” to fill out an application.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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