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CARES suicide prevention group in danger of closing

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CARES suicide prevention group in danger of closing

By Matt Grant. CREATED Feb 25, 2013 - UPDATED: Feb 26, 2013

FORT MYERS - A suicide prevention group that's helped thousands is now in need of assistance themselves and could be forced to close down.;

"Financially we are in trouble," said Virginia Cervasio, the founder of the non-profit group CARES.

Cervasio started started Community Awareness in Recognizing and Educating on Suicide (CARES) seven years ago after her son Angelo committed suicide.

"Suicide is so taboo that nobody wants to talk about it," said Cervasio. "That's what we try to do we try to break that barrier. We try to stop that stigma."

But the support CARES gives is in danger. Cervasio says it costs $3000 a month to run the office which runs on donations.

"We just don't have it anymore," said Cervasio, who says they only have enough money to stay open until May. "The money's not coming in like it was." 

In 2011, there were 128 suicides in Lee County. Survivors, like the Powers family, find strength and help with CARES.

"I go through my moments where I think he's coming home," said Dawn Powers, who would have celebrated her 14th wedding anniversary with her husband Eddie, who took his life in 2011.

It was a tragedy that impacted the whole family.

"I was so angry," said his son, Eddie Jr. "I didn't even want to talk about it for months."

"When I got in front of my house there were cop cars and an ambulance was leaving," said his sister Caitlin. "And all I remember was my 5th grade teacher said something went wrong."

Last year, two Ida Baker High School students committed suicide less than two weeks apart. CARES was there for the families.

"We are survivors and we know exactly what they're going through," said Cervasio. "I can definitely relate as a parent who has lost their child to suicide. Because I know exactly what they're going through and all the questions and guilt that they're going to feel."

CARES is the only organization in southwest Florida that focuses on suicide education and prevention. Caitlin and her brother got through their father's death by attending a grief camp run by CARES.

"Both of my kids have come so far," said their mother Dawn. "And they're doing phenomenal."

 It's what keeps Cervasio vowing to somehow keep the doors open.

"I know that we're not going to stop fighting," she said. "So if it does shut down, I know that we went down with a fight."

Cervasio says she will remain active if CARES is forced to close its door.

For more information about CARES, or to donate, click on the link below.

CARES Web site

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com