Drug seizure funds to cover rent for nonprofit in Gwinnett

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:

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GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - A nonprofit that provides assistance to victims of sexual assault is up and running in a new location thanks to an unexpected donation: seized drug money.
 

For 26 years, the Gwinnett Sexual Assault and Children's Advocacy Center has provided distinct care and support for victims of sexual assault, "The only center in the country that’s providing advocacy, forensic medical services and legal assistance,” said director Ann Burdgess.
 
It all happens under one roof, but, as Channel 2 Action News first reported in May, the nonprofit needed a new roof over its head and time was running out.
 
The city of Duluth condemned the existing building and gave the nonprofit a move-out date of July 1. That sent Burdgess scrambling for a new home and the money to pay for it.
 
"I watched their funding issues develop and it just didn't look like it was going to get resolved," said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter.
 
Porter offered to pay for the entire first year of the lease, $48,000.
 
"That seems to me to be the highest and best use of forfeiture money," Porter said.
 
It was federal forfeiture money seized during criminal investigations.
 
"That was like winning the lottery. I mean game changer of epic proportion," said Burdgess.
 
Burdgess said the center was going to make it work by shuffling money around, likely at the expense of services offered to victims.

Porter wanted to step in for the victims, saying the work is crucial to his prosecutions.
 
"They provide expert witnesses. They provide all of the things that I need to prosecute cases,” Porter said.
 
Burdgess said, "It’s validation that our work and our services are important, that this is a community issue that impacted everyone in Gwinnett County.”
 
The center isn't sure if the forfeiture funds could evolve into a long term deal. Officials said at least now, they have a full year to fundraise and find other sources of revenue if they do have to foot the bill on their own next year.