Nonprofit Group Raises Awareness Of Missing Persons
CELORON — For the fourth consecutive year, the Community United Effort made a presence at the Celoron Rib-Fest to raise awareness for missing persons.
The nonprofit organization is supported by community donations, small grants and fundraising events, and is entirely staffed by volunteers. The organization was founded by Monica Caison in Wilmington, N.C. in 1994. Locally, Janeane Shanahan is the New York/PA State Outreach coordinator and mother of missing person Damien Mark Sharp, who was last seen being dropped off at a Memorial Day weekend party in Warren, Pa., in 2002.
“When (Damien) went missing, I was very mad,” Shanahan said Saturday. “I was having a hard time getting people to believe that Damien was missing. I knew about (Lori Ceci Bova) going missing, and I also knew her parents very well. When Yolanda Bindics went missing, Monica Caison came into town and had a roadstop rally.
“I was invited to come up and present Damien’s story. That’s when I learned about CUE. When this happened, I avoided the Cecis too. I didn’t want to talk about Damien, because I thought that wasn’t going to be me. When I finally met them, they hugged me, and all I could say was, ‘Oh’, because now you know the feeling.”
In the months following, Sue Ceci, Shanahan and Yolanda Bindics’s mother spoke on radio together, and Shanahan felt a strong desire to contribute to CUE. She has been involved for the past six years and has been a state outreach coordinator for the past four.
When allowed, CUE works with local police departments to keep in contact with families of missing people and provide support.
“When someone goes missing, it can be very distressing for the families,” Shanahan said. “It’s easy to get angry (at those who are trying to help), and you might see a police officer and wonder why they’re not out there looking. But they are, and that’s what I try to do. I go in and let the families know that everything that can be done is being done.
“CUE, when asked to come in, we do everything, from ground searches, air, boat — anything you can think of. And when we’re allowed to work with the police, we’re very successful,” she said.
As the mother of a missing male, Shanahan spoke about the pride she takes in searching and advocating for missing men.
“I work hard on both male and female, but I try to bring attention to the missing male,” Shanahan said.
“It’s a very urgent thing when women, children and the elderly go missing, but to try to report an adult male missing must be one of the most difficult things to do.”
Shanahan stated how she still struggles with the anguish of having a missing son, just as Jennifer Shields, sister of Lori Ceci Bova, struggles — but each have found some solace in helping others through the difficulties of having a loved one go missing. And each still hold out hope that all those missing will someday be found.
Bova went missing June 7, 1997, shortly after having dinner with family. The Jamestown woman was 26 years old at the time of her disappearance.
CUE has been present at Rib-Fest since opening day last week, and has held fundraising efforts through the event. Many items were for sale and several raffles were available for participation. However, Shanahan said the most significant fundraising contribution came through Saturday’s Ride to Find Them.
Set up as a poker run, over 81 motorcycles and 103 total riders participated in the event. Several local fire departments helped to organize and promote the event, and Shanahan said this year’s Ride to Find Them was the largest run to date.
According to Shanahan, CUE will continue to help the families and loved ones of the missing indefinitely, as well as continue to bring awareness to missing peoples.
“Every missing person is somebody’s child,” Shanahan said.