In June 1999, Founder Gene Grounds envisioned a faith-based organization to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of victims of crime during a Criminal Justice Conference in Austin, Texas.
Extensive work is being done to rehabilitate criminals and to assist their families, but little assistance was available to the victims of crime and their families.
Grounds recognized that building close relationships among local law enforcement, social service agencies and the faith community was necessary for such a vision to be successful.
After meeting with the Dallas, Texas police chief they agreed to conduct a pilot program in the Southwest District of the Dallas Police Department.
By October 1999, leadership from over 50 agencies and 100 churches were committed to the victim relief efforts, as well as a large contingency from the Dallas Police Department.
In May 2000, Victim Relief was incorporated, and the Dallas pilot program began. At that time, Texas Baptist Men sponsored the start up of the organization and a local church provided the headquarters facility. Victim Relief received tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status in 2001.
Crime, Disaster, and Terrorism Response
In 2000 and 2001, 500 victims of crime were served each year and an experience base was formed. The Dallas Police Department established a formal partnership with Victim Relief which not only continues to date, but is expanding into specialized areas such as crimes against senior citizens and homicide victims.
In the Spring of 2001, Grounds recognized that victims needed a professional spiritual care advocate, and with the assistance of others, co-founded a new profession of chaplaincy – Victim Chaplains.
The September 11th, 2001 terrorist attack in New York City changed the emphasis of need for Victim Relief services. Chaplains Grounds and team responded to Ground Zero and worked for many weeks. Victim Relief was requested by the Ground Zero Faith Based Task Force to provide grief training, In November, 2001 more than 300 clergy and lay professionals were trained in six New York/New Jersey boroughs.
By April 2002, an additional 500 victims of violent crimes were served and the Victim Chaplain Association of America program was founded.
In 2003, Victim Relief expanded client services to a city wide basis in Dallas. The headquarters were moved to a disaster relief mission equipping center.
In the Spring of 2003, Dr. Norman Wright, the nation’s foremost faith based counselor in grief and trauma and author of more than 80 books, joined Victim Chaplain Association as Chairman of the Board. In the Fall of 2003, the name was expanded to include a new professional category of Victim Counselors.
In February 2003, Victim Chaplains were called to assist in the search and recovery of the NASA Astronauts. More than 74 chaplains and crisis responders trained by Victim Chaplain Association responded and spent the weekend working along with the search teams in East Texas. Victim Relief also provided a prayer station for comfort at the entrance of NASA in Houston, Texas to offer grief support to thousands who congregated at the memorial site. Victim Relief was present at this location for two weeks.
Victim Relief Chaplains have been called to respond to victims of disasters. In 2002, Victim Relief Chaplains responded to the wildfire victims in New Mexico and Arizona. In 2003 and 2004 Victim Relief Chaplains responded to flood victims in Central Texas as well as responding to hurricanes in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and Grenada.
Since 2002, God has given Victim Relief Ministries many opportuinities to serve victims of disaster. Click here for a listing of these opportunities.
God's faithfulness through ten years of ministry is evident. Victim Relief Ministries is strongly anticipating continued outreach to victims around the world.