71ºF

Emotional stories highlight mission of Justice Coalition

'Voices for Victims' breakfast raises awareness of group helping victims

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Family members of victims and a survivor of violent crime shared emotional stories Thursday at the Justice Coalition's "Voices for Victims" breakfast

The event at the Fraternal Order of Police building was aimed at helping raise awareness and get a message to the public as several Jacksonville groups that help victims of crime need help themselves.

Since their state funding was cut from $300,000 to $150,000, Justice Coalition advocates haven't missed a beat, but they have been doing more with less.

Thursday morning’s breakfast was a push to the public to help keep the mission going.

"The missing persons, the solved homicides, the unsolved homicides, these young people, their lives had just begun. They’ve been snuffed out in a moment," said Ray Pringle, with the Justice Coalition.

The proof was in the faces displayed at the breakfast, and the tearful voices of the people who loved them.

Former Jacksonville Jaguar Richard Collier joined those voices Thursday, sharing his emotional story with the dozens gathered at the breakfast. Collier was left paralyzed from the waist down after someone shot him 14 times in 2008.

He said he'll never forget the connections he made with the Coalition.

"The biggest thing for me was the personal times. Sitting in the hallway, they would come pray with me,” Collier said. "I feel kind of guilty because there's so many victims that won't be able to talk. Who won't be able to say how they feel."

But the Coalition helped Collier through. 

"There's so many people out there that have gone through this who don't even know about the Justice Coalition,” Collier said. “Hopefully, they see this, get involved and help people. That's what it's all about."

UNCUT: Richard Collier's shares his story

The Justice Coalition has helped many families over the years, but now the group is having money problems, while the push to serve hasn't changed.

"Every month on the board of directors, we look. We see the workload is still the same. It hasn't diminished whatsoever. In fact, it's more," Pringle said.

Pringle said not only has state funding been cut in half, but the number of paid staff has dropped to five,
and there's no executive director.

The Coalition works every day to make hard times a little easier. From organizing events like the "Tossing of the Roses" and the "Ride for Justice," to escorting victims and their families to court, Coalition advocates have brought comfort.

Volunteer Frances Futrill knows that comfort firsthand. Her daughter, Mary Futrill-Peterson, was killed in 2002.

"You have the Justice Coalition to be there for you and to help you. It's devastating when these things happen," Futrill said.

Andi Crutchfield’s son, Brandon Blansit, was killed in 2014. She shared Futrill’s sentiment.

"Once the court proceedings began, I was in court 32 times. Every time, the Justice Coalition was there," Crutchfield said. "I wish that there were a time that advocates became extinct, because that would mean that violent crime is gone. But we know that is never going to be the case. As long as we have crime, we need advocates, and we need the Justice Coalition."

Anyone interested in helping the Justice Coalition can contact the organization at 904-783-6312. They are located in Jacksonville at 1935 Lane Ave. South, Unit 1.


About the Author: