Pay it 4ward: Violent crimes victim advocate honored for helping grieving families

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – When it comes to violent crimes in Albuquerque, 2021 undoubtedly was horrific for so many families.

When family members suddenly find themselves grieving a tragic loss and navigating a complicated legal system– there has been an advocate in their corner for decades.

KOB 4’s Chris Ramirez is helping Pay It 4ward to a woman who is truly helping survivors of violence turn their grief into strength.

Pat Caristo has worked to get answers for families who have lost loved ones to violence for nearly four decades.

KOB 4 recently highlighted the investigative work Caristo did for the family of Kaitlyn Arquette, an Albuquerque teenager murdered in 1989.

But through the years– Caristo has extended her support to thousands of other families through her non-profit– Resource Center for Victims of Violent Death.

Joan Shirley nominated Caristo for this week’s Pay It 4ward.

“There are a lot of people floundering on their own. They don’t know what to do next. They need day to day support and that is what the Resource Center for Violent Death does. People can call, talk with Pat anytime. She is a great advocate trying to find support and resources for her families,” said Shirley.

Caristo has helped family members understand their legal rights as victims. And she’s connected them with grief counseling. Perhaps most importantly- she has connected them with others who are going through the same kind of pain and trauma.

Cariston connected mothers together who have all lost sons in gun violence.

“At the worst time of my life, Pat has been there for me and made me feel that I am not alone,” said Josette Otero, mother to Kyle Martinez. “I also feel like Pat has helped me get through this and a lot of my depression. She has given me the stepping stones to live for my son instead of living for his death.”

“She never has never had enough money to cover everything. There is not enough to have full time staff all the time. There isn’t enough money for all that and I want to honor her for that good work,” Shirley said.

While $400 is a drop in the bucket, Shirley knows Caristo will put it to good use, especially with more people needing help than any year before.

“Yes and the harder part now is that we get them within days or weeks of the murder and those needs are different than the families who are a little bit beyond, they have done the burials and some of the grieving. Now families have no idea where to go,” said Caristo.

But all that help that Caristo and her non-profit has offered has taken a financial toll, and while the need is growing, the cash flow, especially in the pandemic– is slowing.

“We are limited to what we can give them, as opposed to the need that there is. We are trying to find ways to say– what can we do to meet these expanded needs?” Caristo said.

Caristo is somebody who you pray your life experiences don’t require her help.

But for the hundreds of families who have benefited from her generosity– their prayer is one of thanks that she is in their life.