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Victim Assistance’s Leanne Graham receives “30 For The Future” award

Leanne Graham

Legal News Reporter

Published: September 10, 2013

Leanne Graham, who has recently taken over as the executive director of Akron’s Victim Assistance Program, has been named as one of “30 for the Future” by the Akron Chamber of Commerce’s Young Professional Network (YPN).

The award is given annually to 30 young professionals between the ages of 25 and 39 who, according to the chamber, “live and/or work in the Greater Akron region, who are trendsetters in their industries and who make an impact on the region through dynamic leadership and community service.”

Graham, originally from the Boston area, came to northeast Ohio to attend graduate school at Kent State University, where she received a masters degree in justice studies in 2009. Her undergraduate degree is in criminology, from Suffolk University, which is located in downtown Boston.

She moved to Ohio in 2002, and started working at the Victim Assistance Program as a crisis worker, a job that connected her to the Battered Women’s Shelter. She eventually moved over to the shelter, until she was asked to replace the nonprofit’s first director, Rev. Robert Denton.

Denton had been the organization’s first and only director, beginning with the start of VAP in 1972. Graham then becomes only the second director that the organization has ever had.

“Akron Victim Assistance was one of the first two such organizations in the country,” said Graham. The other was in St. Louis, Missouri. “We pioneered victim’s rights around the country.”

Graham officially took over as director in January 2013, but had been back training for the position for six months prior to that, she said.

“It was a glide process,” she said. “I mentored under Bob for six months.”

Denton is now the full-time executive director of the Safety Forces Chaplaincy Center.

“People are always asking me what our relationship is now with Bob,” Graham said. “He is not involved in any way with Victim Assistance. He is happy in his current position with the Chaplaincy. We do meet together every week.”

Graham said that Denton has given her his full confidence in her ability to do the job. “He has given me his ultimate permission, which is that he trusts me to move the organization forward. It is very warming to have that. Dr. Denton left the agency in good shape, and our job is to take it to a new chapter in its history.”

As a part of moving forward, Graham is overseeing VAP’s electronic media presence. “We have an extensive intern program,” she said, which comprises 10 people from The University of Akron and Case. Many of them will be developing the organization’s social media presence.

In addition, Victim Assistance has just been awarded one of three WhiteSpace CreatAthon grants. The $25,000 in-kind work will be used to build a “rebranded” new website. WhiteSpace ( is a local marketing company that works with local nonprofits. The Creatathon is a national rebranding competition.

“It will be a new logo, website, literature—everything,” said Graham.

The organization’s relationship with the chamber is one of mutual benefit, said Graham.

“Victim Assistance is a member of the chamber because we want to be involved with the community on all different levels,” said Graham. “Victimization happens in the business sector, and we want businesses to be aware of our services and that they can call on us. We use this as another opportunity to educate people in the community about who we are and what we can do. The chamber is one of our best opportunities to be involved in the commercial sector.”

The chamber reciprocates by giving VAP a membership discount, she said. This makes membership in the chamber even possible, because of budget cuts that have come to VAP, along with other social service agencies.

The Boston native loves her adopted city, she said, and is very happy that she made the move here.

“I prefer it here,” she said. “There is a sense of history, from the rubber industry to marbles. Akron is a place where I can feel like I am a part of the community. People here make fun of this, but I still go outside every time the blimp comes overhead.”