by Martha Smith
Tim Haston, Peoples Independent Bank (PIB) Manager, made a $3,000 donation toward the Jackson County Children’s Advocacy Center(CAC) on PIB’s behalf. Haston shared that years ago, PIB made a corporate decision to allocate money typically set aside to fund a Christmas party and instead of paying for that party, to use those funds for donations toward a non-profit of each branch’s choice, “And we are proud to do it.”
The CAC is an essential, FREE service for abused children throughout Jackson County. The facility provides a child-friendly, safe, neutral location in which law enforcement and DHR investigators may conduct and observe forensic interviews with children who are alleged victims of sexual abuse crimes. In addition to this service, the CAC also provides therapy to these children and non-offending family members, along with support, crisis intervention and referrals for mental health and medical treatment. Just one of the CAC’s main objectives is to reduce trauma to child victims by bringing the team together and sharing information more efficiently, preventing the child victim from having to retell and revisit the traumatic experience more than once. In order to provide these crucial services, the CAC needs yearly contributions they can rely on that can cover salaries and keep the center open to continue to provide this sanctuary of resources to local children. This year marks the third year that PIB has donated their allocated Christmas party funds to the CAC.
Misty Godfrey, Executive Board Secretary/CAC stated, “Their [PIB’s] generous donation could not have come at a better time, especially since the CAC has lost approximately $37,000 in grant money this year due to the pandemic. We appreciate their thoughtful act of giving up their Christmas party to make this donation to the CAC instead. God is faithful. We have experienced ongoing community support in various ways throughout the pandemic and budget cuts.”
In reference to a year at the CAC, Cheryl Long/CAC Director stated, “Our small community is not immune to this sad reality. We have seen so many innocent children who have experienced a great deal of trauma. Those traumatic experiences have caused many of these children to lose trust; not only in those who hurt them and should have been their protector, but also in those who love them and did not realize the abuse was happening. Many have lost hope due to years of repeated abuse. Over the past year, I have conducted 59 interviews of children who were abused by parents, family members and friends. There were no interviews of children who were abused by a stranger. I have also completed interviews of children who have been victims of domestic violence and/or severely physically abused. Again, every child interviewed was physically abused by a relative, someone they knew and trusted or a friend. Fortunately, we have a community that has been very supportive of our mission thus far, helping us be able to provide free services to these children. We are able to provide these child victims with hope, healing and justice. children who have experienced trauma can grow up to be productive members of society with access to mental healthy treatments that reduce the lifelong effects of trauma caused by abuse.”
Here are the numbers: 2019 saw over 145 local children receive therapy and forensic interviews. Jackson County is one of the sparsest populated counties in Alabama, and in just one year, 145 children passed through the CAC’s doors in need of protecting and in need of help. This year, 2020, saw 111 NEW cases, with the center providing 896 direct services; 59 of those required a forensic interview, and for their ongoing care, there were 726 therapy sessions. Just in Jackson County.
CAC Therapist Tara Harville stated, “Working at the CAC has been an eye-opening experience thus far – not necessarily for the good. It’s heartbreaking to hear these stories from the children who come to the center, but seeing the progress they make while receiving services is uplifting.”
CAC Family Advocate Sarah Owens stated, “Advocating for children and their families in one of their most trying times has been the most rewarding position in my life.”
Godfrey added, “We all want to help those in need, and we know the holidays are a season of giving, but they’re also the season of spending. Whether you’re a business or an individual wondering how you can give back this year and gift others, consider donating to one of our many non-profit organizations throughout the county, and make a donation in someone’s name.”
How can you help? If you’d like to forgo a Christmas party at your workplace in lieu of a tax-deductible donation to the CAC, those checks can be made payable to the Jackson County Children’s Advocacy Center, ATTN: Fundraising, P.O. Box 902, Scottsboro, Ala. 35768. Other ways to invest in this local organization are memorial and honorary gifts, corporate matching and sponsorships, hosting a fundraising event, gifts of stocks and securities, planned and estate giving. You can also set up an automatically-recurring gift. This allows the gift to be broken up into manageable monthly amounts, and provides sustainable funding to the CAC. Contact their Treasurer, Tim Haston at Peoples Independent Bank, 820 South Broad Street in Scottsboro or call him at 256.259.8844.
For other local civics organizations and local charities, check out The Giving List at theclarion.org.