Victim-witness advocates from Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office will bring a bounty of toys to the families of crime victims this holiday season after amassing a record number of donations to their annual toy drive.
Dozens upon dozens of gifts poured into donation boxes at Conley’s nine district court offices and downtown headquarters this week after one seasoned victim advocate sent out an impassioned plea in light of a slow start to the DA’s annual toy drive, organized by VWAs Katherine Moran, Tim Munzert, and Jennifer Sears.
“Our goal with this year’s toy drive is to help 40 or more families who have lost a loved one to deadly or debilitating violence,” the advocate wrote in an office-wide email Monday. “Your donated gifts will go directly to those families. These are folks whose means were modest to start with, but who have suffered on top of that the countless costs, large and small, associated with their personal losses: the costs of medical care, funeral arrangements, time spent out of work, and so on. Even when some of those costs can later be recouped, they add up to a staggering amount for any working adult.”
By this morning, the toys numbered too many to count as members of Conley’s Victim Witness Assistance Program piled them high on a table for wrapping and delivery to families affected by violent crime who have young children in their care.
“I’m proud of these men and women year round,” Conley said, “but the depth and breadth of their kindness and compassion in the season of giving is unparalleled. In many cases, victim advocates are the primary point of contact between wounded families and the prosecutors, investigators, and support staffers who work on their behalf. That they can marshal this kind of response year in and year out speaks volumes about their dedication.”
Conley’s office employs more than three dozen victim advocates at each courthouse in Suffolk County and in specialized Superior Court trial teams. They orient victims, witnesses, and their families to the criminal justice system; make referrals for medical, legal, and financial assistance; facilitate counseling and other social services; assist in safety and protection plans; and provide emotional support during what can be a confusing, imposing, and life-changing series of events.
“As prosecutors, our most fundamental duty is to serve victims and their loved ones,” Conley said. “We have to make every effort to reach out, be approachable, and maintain our reputation for outstanding advocacy. This is one very special way we do it.”