Ribbon Cutting at the Center for Hope and Healing in White Cloud
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
I think Modern Miracles do happen but it takes Angel's work and collaboration with kind-hearted and generous folks to manifest them. We gathered in White Cloud on August 23 at 5:30 PM under a blue sun bright Michigan sky to participate in the ribbon cutting and official opening of the Center for Hope and Healing. In my opinion a perfect example of a certifiable Modern Miracle. About a year ago we met here to tour what was then a large empty building and hear some frighting statistics about child abuse and neglect. The staff from two non-profit organizations Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse (PCA) and Open Arms Child Advocacy Center (OACAC) presented plans to combine their resources and develop this Center for Hope and Healing. This concept would provide "prevention, intervention, and wrap-around services all at one location."
At the first concept presentation, the need to support our precious children and PCA’s reasons for getting out of their miserable old pole barn was clearly stated. After touring their new place, a really big empty building, and looking at the renovation plans and timelines I thought maybe they were a little bit aggressive if not aspirational.
There is ALWAYS a doubting Thomas.
Fast forward about a year and here we are again sitting out front in the warm sun watching Tara Nelson the Executive Director for Newaygo County PCA and Laura Britting Executive Director of the Open Arms Child Advocacy Center (OACAC) making microphone checks and attending to other last-minute details for the Center for Hope and Healing ribbon cutting.
On reflection between the first concept meeting which we can call point A and today's ribbon cutting which we will call point B is where the Modern Miracle stuff happened. You could think about it this way. Management and staff from PCA and OACAC are standing on the bank of a large fast-moving river. They have to get down this river from point A to Point B. They have lots of caring supporters and plenty of resources but they still have to get in the river and go from A to B. What they need is a good raft. Being who they are they make a leap of faith and gather up some materials, hold hands and jump in the river. They would build their raft while floating down this swift river. The river is a metaphor for the time and effort it took to manage a 24,000 sq ft building renovation and capital campaign. In addition to that arduous project, they had to meet their organizational and personal commitment to our children and families that are in crisis or require intervention. They had to get these people onboard as they were speeding along and building a usable raft.
To that end, this year in addition to that renovation and fund-raising stuff they have met their commitments. They have given; "35 car seats to families in need, delivered 52 Pack n’ Plays, provided over 500 infant safe sleep training classes, and hosted 677 children for the Summer Magic Program. They made Kids Have Rights presentations to 3,108 children and donated 2,701 lbs of food. Sadly, OACAC conducted 126 forensic interviews in 2022 through July. In 2021, OACAC conducted 215 forensic interviews." Keeping in mind this was taking place during a Covid Pandemic.
But back to point B and the ribbon cutting. Laura Britting, the new Executive Director of OACAC stepped to the front and made a short presentation again reminding us why we were here.
"Childhood sexual abuse is a growing tragedy in America today. The data is clear: one in 4 girls and one in 13 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Sexual assault traumatizes children. The scars, however, cut deep and can go beyond the child, affecting family and friends closest to the victim. In many cases, those who are most affected have no place to turn.
"That's where the Center for Hope and Healing comes in.
"With Open Arms Child Advocacy Center and our partner Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, this center will provide the resources, information, and trained, compassionate and caring staff to children who have been victims of abuse and assault."
Then it was PCA Executive Director Tara Nelson’s turn. She welcomed us all and recognized all the great contributions and sacrifices that the staff, board members, donors, partners, contractors, and her family had made to make this magic happen. These included the usual suspects. County Prosecutor Worth Stay, Undersheriff Chad Palmiter, Commissioner Bryan Kolk, Chief Dan Evans, Azlan Ibrahim organizer, and fundraiser. Lisa Lightfoot the Coldwell Banker super salesperson who helped get PCA out of their old pole barn into this incredible new building. Randy Fulton and Toni Fulton, the hammer and nail team that probably slept in the building to get the renovations finished in three months.
Lastly and so very important, the generous and deep pocket folks. The Fremont Area Community Foundation, The Gerber Foundation, Dennis Adama, D.R. Adama family gift fund. Joe Vanhoven from the Fremont Meijer, the United Way, The River County Chamber of Commerce, The County Municipalities and their police departments, and other important folks that I failed to notice. I apologize for these omissions but the warm sun on my shoulders was affecting my attention.
Interestingly enough, I have noticed that warm sun seems to affect seniors and lazy house cats in the same way.
After the short professional presentation and ribbon-cutting photo ops it was show time. You must see this building. It is spacious, white, clean, and bright with wonderfully safe and well-furnished places for the children to play. Most impressive were the very private, comfortable rooms for conducting forensic interviews. Most enjoyable was a tour of the onsite store by Tashina Kerr. This dear heart was so excited about this new facility and store that she was buzzing with joy.
It is overwhelming to think that these people stand in for us and our community to address some of our most dark and damaging behaviors. They and the generous folks around here have stood up and built this Center for Hope and Healing so that some of these grievous behaviors can be prevented or mitigated. We all should be so very thankful they and this place are here in our community doing the work they do. We too must continue to support them in every way possible. Including, when we become aware of such, we must point out these terrible behaviors.
On my way out, I asked Tara if she was relieved that the ribbon cutting and official opening were over. “Not really,” she said. “It was just like a big family gathering."
Hmm… Super Heroes or maybe just more Angel work?