OSKALOOSA — Crisis Intervention Services, which serves a 12-county area in southern Iowa, is attempting to make the holidays brighter and safer for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and violent crimes by providing gift cards to them and their families to buy toys, clothing, food and other items this holiday season.

CIS is accepting gift cards from stores in its service area, including Casey's, Fareway, Hy-Vee, Target and Walmart, as well as gift cards from Visa, Amazon and other online retailers. The agency's advocates will distribute them to survivors, and the agency is also accepting monetary donations, which will be used to buy more gift cards.

“Our annual holiday giving effort takes on special meaning this year because the pandemic creates new challenges for CIS and the people we serve,” said Sondra Prochaska, executive director of CIS. “With people spending more time at home, the potential is great for interpersonal violence to increase. At the same time, survivors and families are struggling more financially. We want to bring them some hope and also find creative ways to keep people safe.”

The effort is a shift from a traditional approach of giving wrapped gifts to families served by CIS shelter and advocacy teams, and expands on a legacy of support from churches and individuals, Prochaska said.

Gift cards or money, in any amount, can be mailed to Pat Finan at Crisis Intervention Services, 207 A Ave. East, Oskaloosa, IA 52577. Donations can also be made online at www.stopdvsa.org. Donations are preferred by Dec. 7, but will be accepted throughout the holiday season.

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