Gina DeJesus and family’s mission creates 1st of its kind organization in the country

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 2:49 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -It has been 10 years since Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight escaped from the unimaginable after being hidden in a Cleveland home for 10 years.

For DeJesus, after some time and with the help of her cousin Sylvia Colon, she wanted to give back.

“When Gina came home she asked a lot of questions about, ‘Well what do you all go through? What kinds of things were happening,’” Colon said. “And as she was more comfortable in talking about it we would answer her questions like ‘well we didn’t have a lot of help, it was really hard.’”

It was those stories that pushed Gina and family into the idea of a place where families could be supported when someone goes missing whether by abduction or a runaway.

And an organization was born.

It lead to the creation of Cleveland Missing, also known as the Cleveland Family Center for Missing Children and Adults.

“Two things; one, no family should ever have to beg for resources while looking for a missing loved one, and we want to always be the soft place for families to land,” Colon said.

This first of its kind, brick and mortar facility has everything from computers available for families, supplies for making fliers even a family room with couches and video games for families to decompress.

“We always tell people this is a judgement free zone. We don’t care really why they’re missing, we just want to help the family bring the loved one home,” Colon said.

The physical location of Cleveland Missing, in the Pivot Center on West 25th, will also surprise a lot of people as it’s about 200 yards from the former home where DeJesus was held captive for all those years.

“Gina tell people that is was important for us to be here for a couple of reasons, " Colon explains. “One, she does not want what happened to her and the other women to define this community. And she felt that this community deserves better than that. It was a street and something bad happened on it. But that doesn’t define this community and this neighborhood. And it is an opportunity to give back and give hope.”

In 2022, the organization helped 58 families and had 11 other inquiries.

Many of the cases ended with family members being located, and in some reunited.

But Colon points out some cases have lengthy investigations, and take time.

But it’s time, resources and hope that Cleveland Missing provides.

And that was the goal from the beginning.