As challenging as 2020 was for many businesses, nonprofits, and citizens alike, one constant factor has remained: that domestic and sexual violence continues to be a problem in Pasco County.

Sunrise of Pasco County Inc. Domestic and Sexual Violence Center has made sure to keep its doors open to meet the needs of the community by modifying its services. Shelters have adjusted to accommodate Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and a HIPAA version of video conferencing has made it easier for those seeking assistance to get counseling services.

The nonprofit organization offers free services through its hotline, emergency shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, Economic Empowerment Program, and Rural Program. Its website shares a host of resources to anyone in need, and those who need to reach its 24-hour hotline can call 352-521-3120.

“We scaled back how many people are in a shelter at a given time to make sure everybody is safe,” said Vicki Wiggins, director of development for Sunrise of Pasco. “At the beginning of all this, the demand for space has really gone down even though the calls and the need has gone up. We feel that people are afraid to enter an environment in which they’re unsure of what they’re going to encounter. If someone is in danger of being seriously hurt or killed, we absolutely encourage them to come to the shelter. People just aren’t necessarily taking us up on that because of that fear of contracting something they have been told is very dangerous.”

In the shelters, one family instead of two can share a room, and a quarantine space has been designated in case someone feels ill, Wiggins explained. More people are choosing to stay at home instead of visiting a shelter, but thanks to the virtual outreach services, more people are returning to their appointments.

Wiggins said Sunrise of Pasco plans to keep these virtual counseling sessions available in the next year due to the higher retention rate. Having a virtual counselor makes it easier for people who may not have the means to travel or find childcare. Plus, she added, people are less intimidated to talk over the phone or computer than meeting in person.

Another challenge that Sunrise of Pasco faces is a financial one. Its Solutions Thrift Store and donation center in Dade City makes up seven percent of the nonprofit’s total budget. Precautions in place include quarantining donated items, sanitizing, and encouraging patrons to wear masks or face shields inside. While many grants are made available for COVID relief, it has limited the amount of funds the nonprofit can receive from the normal grants Sunrise of Pasco applies to each year.

“People are so incredibly generous,” Wiggins said. “When we put out a wish list, we have community members who will grab that wish list, print it off and take it with them to the grocery store or to Wal-Mart.”

On the other hand, Sunrise of Pasco did receive a grant to hire a Rapid Rehousing Advocate, and is looking to fill advocate positions for hotline calls and shelters. Wiggins said one of the struggles the nonprofit has faced this year is finding people interested in filling these positions.

Earlier this month, the nonprofit hosted its annual “Lake Jovita 5K Reindeer Run” but changed the in-person event to a virtual one. Already, Sunrise of Pasco is looking forward to its next virtual event that can greatly benefit it with a click of a button. From February 1 to March 2, the public is invited to take surveys by Express Feedback for Good to help raise money. For every brand opinion that you share via survey, Express Feedback for Good will donate $2 to Sunrise of Pasco. Individuals are limited to participating in 75 surveys for a month-long period, and personal data will not be sold or used in any way.

Wiggins said Sunrise of Pasco hopes to raise $30,000 from these surveys. That’s enough money to make up for missing one of its events this year, and can be made up by 200 people committing to taking the surveys offered. Each survey can be finished in less than a minute.

“They’re very simple surveys,” Wiggins said. “I did this as a test for another nonprofit earlier this summer. I have not been swamped with emails, I have not been spammed beyond the 30-day period. I can do it while I sit in front of my TV or waiting for a doctor’s appointment. It’s a really easy way for people to safely contribute without taking a dollar out of their pocket.”

To receive the survey link when it becomes available, email Vicki Wiggins at vwiggins@sunrisepasco.org.