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Governor awards $46 million for nonprofits

Dena Taggart

Victim Dena Taggart shares about Maryland victim advocacy programs before an audience including Governor Larry Hogan

La Plata, MD - There are often stories within stories

One story was Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s announcement on Monday, Nov. 21 at the Center for Children located in La Plata, more than $46 million in the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Victim Assistance federal grants was being presented in all state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance, services. and treatment for Maryland citizens who have been victims of a crime. These grants will include substantial funding for many agencies throughout Southern Maryland.

The story within the story was a graphic illustration of where such money helps to literally change lives.

Dena Taggart, a victim of domestic violence, told those gathered, including Governor Hogan, of her narrowing escape from a “sadistically abusive relationship.

“He thrived on my pain,” Taggart said amid tears, which she said were “tears of incredible gratitude.”

Her story is all too familiar to those who counsel victims of domestic violence. Taggart said she was subject to sexual abuse, tortured, not allowed to have friends, also locked inside her house and told she could not leave.

“I broke a window and climbed out with my children,” she said.

When her ex-husband found where she was, violence ensued.

“He shot and stabbed me,” Taggart explained.

The perpetrator only served six-and-a-half months for the crime, she said, then sued her and was granted unsupervised visitation with his children.

He eventually kidnapped their son.

“He would remain missing for 12 years,” she said. “Two years ago, I got a phone call that my son had been found and was alive. It was the happiest and scariest day of my life.” Taggart shared.

It was not long before he was back threatening again to “re-kidnap” her son.

Taggart praised the St. Mary’s County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Center for Family Advocacy for their help.

“They went out of their way to try and keep me safe,” she said. “They changed my life. They allowed my restraining order to go forward without knowing where he was. They have given me hope.

“These agencies need as much funding as they can get,” she told the governor. “They are making people’s pain have purpose.”

“I was getting teared up,” Hogan said after hearing Taggart's story. “I was moved by listening to her.”

Hogan gave Taggart a hug after her tearful testimony.

The more than $46 million in federal grants is being awarded to state and local agencies and nonprofit organizations that provide assistance, services and treatment for Maryland citizens who have been victims of crime.

Among local agencies benefiting from the grants was the Calvert County Health Department, which received $204,153.

In Charles County, The Center for Abused Persons was awarded $503,078; The Center for Children Inc. received $176,365; and The LifeStyles of Maryland Foundation Inc. is the beneficiary of $131,828.

Agencies located in St. Mary’s County will also benefit from the announcement of grant funding. 

MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital received $187,775; The Southern Maryland Center for Family Advocacy will receive $820,448; St. Mary’s County Department of Social Services received a $3,000 grant; and Walden Sierra was awarded $89,188.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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