In the last year, the McAllen-based Angels of Love organization assisted 404 domestic violence survivors with legal support. From protective orders to divorces to crime compensation applications, the nonprofit provided people with the tools necessary to navigate the legal system, and help them recover from a domestic violence situation.
But as of Sept. 30, Angels of Love had to pause the advocacy project due to a loss of funding.
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council originally funded the program for the 2021-2022 fiscal year through a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. The council approved a grant for more than $277,000. But when Angels of Love requested a $358,000 grant for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the council declined to continue funding the program
“We weren’t sure if we were going to get the grant or not, but we were actually very optimistic,” Angels of Love CEO, founder and attorney Della Perez said. “We thought ‘Oh for sure we’re going to get it.’ We were 99% sure we were gonna get the grant again. We were banking on it. And then when we didn’t get it, it actually came as a really big shock to us that we didn’t get funded.”
With the funding pulled, Angels of Love had to shut the program down. Perez said she is still waiting for the paperwork explaining why the council denied the grant. But ultimately it comes down to them running out of money, and not deeming the program a high enough priority in the list of grant applicants.
In addition to the five people that lost their jobs when the nonprofit lost funding for the program, domestic violence survivors also lost the opportunity to use legal services. Perez said the team had to create a waitlist for those that needed help but were not able to get their cases looked at before funding ran out. The list is about 30 people long, she said.
“It’s real disheartening. You know, they have these grants available and it’s kind of hard for an organization to get anything going if they’re giving you funds for one year and then you’re going to be cut off and you can’t do it again, you don’t get to offer it to anybody again,” Perez said. “And then let’s say we get it again the following year, we have to start all over again and start from scratch. So it’s real frustrating.”
For the remainder of October, the CEO and the rest of the team will close out the remaining cases for the legal advocacy project.
Angels of Love offers other services such as empowerment classes, a teen dating and violence program, parenting classes and most recently financial literacy classes. All the programs are run by volunteers, but Perez would like to have permanent, paid workers.
“In order to help more people, we need to be able to have staff so that they can go do it as opposed to relying on volunteers because volunteers can only do so much,” she said. “They have their jobs, their work, their family and everything going on as well, and it’s hard to get volunteers to commit for a longtime type of program.”
Even though the legal advocacy project is ending, the other existing programs will continue with their regular operation. And Perez will continue searching for ways to help the community of survivors and victims.
“For me, I’m going to go back to doing my own private practice and I’m just going to try to keep looking for grants and try to move the organization forward with other things,” the Angels of Love founder said. “One of our main goals is trying to open up a shelter so I’m trying to seek grants for that. So I’ll go back to the way it was before for now.” All grant funding goes toward the various Angels of Love programs but operational expenses come through donations or fundraisers. The nonprofit holds galas, luncheons, conferences and events honoring domestic violence survivors and their accomplishments. Donations can be made via CashApp ($Angelsoflovergv), PayPal or the website angelsoflove.love. Get in touch with the nonprofit by calling 956.972.0685 or visiting the headquarters at 409 W. Nolana Avenue in McAllen.