N3 contributor forgoes nap and angling routine to step up and provide a take on the Center for Hope and Healing event.
Story and photos by Charles Chandler
I think it happened when we were sitting in a local restaurant. I was enjoying a perfect cappuccino and a delicious pastry. It was one of those moments where you are happy and enjoying the coffee and conversation. The restaurant was nice, there was a low buzz of conversation around us and the staff was making cooking noises and chatting in the kitchen. You have been in that place, your senses are dulled, you are kind of emotionally composed and then it happens, someone says, “we need to talk or I need a favor.” Your stomach turns over and your flight reflexes kick in and you look for the nearest exit. In this case, it was a favor, the less frightening of the two. My friend and Editor of Near North Now quietly mentioned that he had a hard family commitment and could not attend the Capital Campaign and Open House for the Center for Hope and Healing in White Cloud on Wednesday the 17th. His able, second-in-command Alexis wasn’t available either. She was off running a half marathon in the hills of Philadelphia on that day. “Would you mind so much to go and cover this important event?” A mental, auggggggggggggggggggg followed by a reluctant surrrrrrrrrrrrrre.
I have been plagued by friends, family members, and positions in organizations that require me to be better than I want to be. You know that situation, those expectations that you will get your responsibility and industry. Agreeing to this favor meant breaking my afternoon fishing routine, cleaning up and putting on real clothes, and meeting important adults. And for goodness’ sake, forgoing the afternoon nap! Ken the Editor knows I am a lazy storyteller and not a reporter. And writing is hard and writing small succinct interesting media articles is really really hard.
On the way home after a moment of whining and self-pity I consoled myself with the delusion that I did have a little foreknowledge of this subject. After all, the Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NCPCAN) Center had been housed down the street in White Cloud. They were in that ugly, cold, dank, occasionally vermin-infested pole barn by the railroad tracks on James Street. I had other intel as my wife Dianne was one of the minions helping get the new place ready for the open house. Wednesday came so quickly. In a blink it was time to suit up, find the advance Flyer, put my little N3 Press Badge on and get on over there and stand around and not embarrass anyone, especially myself.
After signing in I followed NCPCAN Executive Director Tara Nelson on a guided speaking tour of the new, soon to be repurposed 23,000 square-foot Center for Hope and Healing building located at 601 N. Evergreen Dr and just a bit North of White Cloud. After the tour I wandered around, met a few people, chatted, and took a bunch of photos. Later when I was standing in this great open space looking at an easel with a bare black-on-white line drawing of the new facility I had a sort of epiphany. This drawing was a metaphor for what I was beginning to feel. I know you have had those moments where you stand still and know that this moment is larger than the event or this moment in time.
Maybe it was the vibe, the light in the expansive space or because this place used to be a church. I don’t know but it was a biblical sort of moment.
It was that light against the dark in the drawing that made it feel like this event was a reset or resurrection and a rebirth was happening. Director Nelson had come out of that gosh-awful, dark, cold, damp pole barn to this place with light, good energy, and abundant space that is needed to do the work that needs to be done.
And there is plenty of work to be done.
Putting this in context the reason that we are here in this place is to address the muddy, messy complex problem of child abuse and neglect. It is that dark side of human behavior that we don’t like to talk about. Today sexual abuse is rampant in all branches of the Military, our religious institutions, and national youth programs like the Boy Scouts of America, College campuses, in our corporate offices, right on down to local schools and the family unit.
Here in Michigan, it is in our face. We are all too familiar with the high-profile case of the predatory Dr. Lawrence Nassar as he worked at Michigan State University's sports medicine clinic. His crimes reverberated from Michigan through the world of gymnastics all the way to the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. It appears that these horrible abuses occurred unchecked over decades and were exacerbated by the failure of many adults who knew or should have known but did not take action to protect these young women.
Every year thousands of children in West Michigan are victims of abuse and neglect. It appears that these incidents can be embedded, generational and increasing as families and communities face the churn of raw cultural clashes that are intensified by the pandemic, political polarization, and economic and environmental uncertainty. To address this embedded and growing problem two organizations have stepped into the fray to mitigate the damage of our communal sins.
What would a biblical story be without some angels? Somewhere I heard or read something like this “I will send them without wings so that no one suspects that are angels.” I believe there were three angels at this open house. Tara Nelson, executive director of Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NCPCAN), Amy Taylor, Open Arms Child Advocacy Center (OACAC) executive director Wendy Samuels, chair of OACAC’s board of directors. These visionaries and leaders of the OACAC and the NCPCAN’ organizations have collaborated, then merged, and will leverage their strengths, expertise and staff. They will now operate from the new Center for Hope and Healing at 601 N. Evergreen Dr.
“The new Center for Hope and Healing will be a state-of-the-art facility that promotes trust, calm, and a sense of security for children and their loved ones. When built out there will be dedicated spaces for a range of services that will be offered to the residents of Newaygo, Lake, Mecosta, and Osceola counties. These services include:
Forensic interviews in child abuse investigations
Children’s rights education
Evidence-based safe sleep information
Play and reading areas for children
Summer activities programs
Meeting and gathering areas”
At 5:00 P.M sharp we gathered and the three gave a brief and professional introduction of their roles, their purpose of being and their mission. Additional details were presented by an excellent 6-minute video. Please click to review the video. 6-minute video
They concluded their presentation with thanks to the donors, volunteers, and attendees. Let there be no doubt for these three have driven a stake in the ground. They have proclaimed that here in the Center for Hope and Healing, we will do the dirty work in the messy, muddy, dark, heartbreaking arena of child abuse and neglect. It was obvious that they are committed to educating, discovering, intervening, helping and healing the abused and neglected child. Then, when necessary, help reform or adjudicate the transgressions. I felt that these three had raised the curtain and turned on the lights and illuminated the scope of this awesome challenge.
“Neither do men light a candle and put it
under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it
giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
I glanced around at the attendees and saw some smiles but just as many grim faces. Good news there because it was not so much about how many attended but who attended this event. In my opinion, they were the 20 percenters that are always there when things need to get done. There were the electeds, Drain Commissioner Twing, Register of Deeds Stewart, Commissioner Bryan Kolk, Mayor James Rynberg, and Representative VanSingle. The Judiciary with Judge Melissa Dykman, Friend of the Court Referee Michael Paige, Prosecutor Worth Stay, Undersheriff Chad Palmiter, White Cloud Police Chief Dan Evans, and other officials. The business community also had representation including Colleen Lynema and other members of the River Country Chamber.
There were the so very important donors like Dennis Adama and platoons of invaluablevolunteers. The Fremont Area Community Foundation was represented by CEO and President Shelly Kasprzycki and Mark Petz. The Foundation through their well-considered and compassionate grant program makes awards to projects, programs, and organizations that most effectively impact our community.
Then there was Abraham. Az Ibrahim the media magician was representing Spectrum Health and had helped organize and publicize this event. His article on the event can be found here:
To refocus, we know that our precious children are irreplaceable and will determine our collective future. We can rear leaders and astronauts or future abusers and lifelong criminals. We have the capacity to provide harm and hurt or love and support for our children. Therefore, it is time that we, the ones here with the responsibility and the means, to get up and step up and speak out for those that are hurt and harmed. Speak out through contributions or commitment to support this new Center for Hope and Healing and this righteous cause. We must help these brave people do what needs to be done in our community.
To contribute to this important campaign please access the following link. www.center4hopehealing.org.
Side Bar: Being a skeptic and a bit curmudgeonly I always like corroborating evidence for modern miracles and biblical stories. In the previous sermonette, we had three Angels, Abraham the Prophet and some good and faithful folks gathered for a good cause in a former church building.
Maybe we needed another Angel or a traveling Wise Man or good Samaritan to show up to add a little reinforcement to this story. As it turns out we had all three. Josh Guerrero was the traveling Wise Man and Good Sumatran and Beth Keloneva was the Angel. According to Beth “Josh Guerrero, (former marine) is hiking all 1200 miles of the North Country Scenic Trail that runs through Michigan. He is doing the Operation Wolverine Walk and raising funds for Veterans. He started August 22, 2021 in the Western UP, and after hiking for three months and 900 miles he was passing through Newaygo County.
Beth, a former NCTA Western Chapter President, was one of his “trail angels” in Newaygo County. Beth also serves as a volunteer at the Center for Hope and Healing and was preparing for the Open House when she also needed to pick up Josh in White Cloud. She asked Josh if he might be willing to help with the set up, and he willingly said, yes!
After learning the purpose of the Center for Hope and Healing, Josh was right on board with the mission. He said one of his other passions was the prevention of human trafficking. Josh volunteered at the center on Tuesday for nearly two hours helping to move nearly 50 heavy tables and chairs.
The next day Josh was back on the trail and continuing his mission!
Those that hike or run long distances know that a few minutes off your pace can change your estimated time of arrival or departure by hours. In three months and over 900 miles it would take more than coincidence or careful planning to put Josh the Good Samaritan in the Center for Hope and Healing on the days of this event. As for Angels, an Angel is as an Angel does. For me I am going to go with the supporting evidence.
Like I said it was a biblical sort of moment.
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