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Cyberbullying call center and safe house coming to El Paso

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- It's already pushed people in the Borderland to end their lives and now help is finally on the way for victims of cyberbullying.

The group El Paso Stop Cyber Bullying and El Paso Goodwill are teaming up to offer new resources to victims in need of support.  It all started four months ago after 14-year-old Viviana Aguirre ended her life in her Lower Valley home.

She had a lot of support from her mother, from her father, from her family, but when they looked for further help it wasn't given to them, said Aguirres cousin Malinda Chavira.
 
Since Aguirres death Chavira, who is also the assistant director for El Paso Cyber Bullying, has been working to open a 24-hour call center and safe house.
 
While there are help hotlines open now, Chavira said often times people dont call them.
 
(Right now) we direct them to those hotlines and the phone call is usually never made, said Chavira.
 
Creating the groups own 24-hour call center means victims wont get the run around.  Also, unlike the current hotlines, Chavira said the goal is to keep the victims contact information and check in on them at a later date.
 
One of our goals is never to let go, said Chavira. And if they don't feel safe and we need to pick them up.
 
Picking up a victim and bringing them to a safe place is where Goodwill comes in.
 
We are opening a safe house in our building, said Mark Huerta, the vice president of mission services and marketing for Goodwill.
 
Goodwill is giving up one of its buildings at 9611 Acer St. in east El Paso.  Right now they have one room set aside to be the call center and another room dedicated to being the safe room.  They will fill the safe room with couches, televisions and video games.  They also have a third space where victims will get the chance to speak with councilors from the University of Texas at El Paso. 
 
Wed like to knock down some walls do some reprinting.  Ideally, we'd like to open up the space to a much bigger facility, said Huerta.
 
On Saturday, Huerta said about 30 Bel Air High School students will help clean and paint the new center.  Huerta said anyone else in the community willing to help out is welcome to join. 
 
Also, organizers are looking for about 10 more volunteers to work at the call center as operators.  They will have 30 volunteers in total. 
 
Twenty-one years of age is one of the requirements for sure. They have to be mentally stable and mature to be able to handle such situations as that, said Chavira.
 
A training for all volunteers manning the phone lines is scheduled from 6-7 p.m. Monday at 9611 Acer St.
 
To become a volunteer visit Goodwills Facebook page at www.facebook.com/goodwillep and send them a message or call Chavira at (915) 203-1765.
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