New Sure Helpline location offers help to another area of community

(Left to right) PREA/Community Outreach Coordinator Reymundo Gonzalez, Lead Advocate Johanna Ramirez, and  volunteers Veronica Acuña, Isela Sanchez, and Jose Luis participate in the grand opening ceremonies. Photo by Katherine Ramos.

CALIPATRIA — When Sure Helpline Crisis Center opened a new center in Calipatria, it offered a closer option for North End residents who have suffered from domestic abuse.

Friday was the grand opening for the crisis center — a North End satellite location for the well-known El Centro agency that has helped people in crisis for decades. All services provided by the crisis center are confidential and free of charge.

One survivor of sexual assault said she had no where else to turn after the incident, stating that therapists and other counselors did not make her feel comfortable or safe.  Shortly after the Calipatria branch opened, she was able to make it her safe, comfortable place with the help of the onsite counselors.

“When I found out this place was open, I immediately felt a relief,” said the survivor. “I don’t feel scared to come over here and Johanna makes it feel safe.”

Sure Helpline is an organization for those who seek help with problems such as abuse, assault, drug and alcohol problems, mental issues, and sexual assault. The organization provides counseling, classes, and offers a safe space for those who need it. If they are unable to provide onsite services, Sure Helpline will point people in the right direction for the help they need. The group also works with schools to provide education and information about domestic situations that students might be going through as well.

Margaret Cauza, executive director of Sure Helpline, said the focus of the organization is to prevent violence against all who might suffer from domestic abuse.

“Nowadays, there is so much violence against women and children,” said Cauza, “and if we can reach them before the children grow up, both men and women, it will be a better world for all of us.”

The new satellite location will provide services for the entire North End of Imperial Valley.  This includes not only Calipatria, but also Brawley, Westmorland, Salton City, Desert Shores, Niland, and the Slabs.

The location makes it easier for people like Catherne Aceves who are unable to travel to Brawley or El Centro for drug, alcohol and parenting classes.

“It’s within walking distance of the house,” said Aceves, who comes to the center once a week for classes. “It especially helps out with my grandkids if I have to bring them with me.”

Acccording to Johanna Ramirez, one of the head counselors at Sure Helpline, the center recently has had 21 cases walk through the doors. Eight of those cases have been people seeking help from sexual assault.

“It’s nice to have somebody in town and available when help is needed,” said Jim Spellins, mayor of Calipatria. “It provides a much-needed service for domestic problems.”

Sure Helpline has been open in the Valley for 45 years, providing services for all who are in crisis that come to their doors. According to Cauza, the group started with only two workers and $180,000 in funds, and has grown to have ten workers with close to $700,000 in funds.