FieldsOfHopePrevent Child Abuse Liberty President Leah Poole discusses the Fields of Hope project, child abuse in Liberty County and how the community get involved.
A small band of volunteers put four rows of American flags on display on the site of the old Liberty County Hospital this past Saturday.
Since Veterans Day was just a few days away at the time, it is likely most onlookers thought workers were preparing for a program to honor America’s veterans.
But these flags were meant to symbolize another group of special citizens. These flags were meant to symbolize the 276 Liberty County children who were victims of abuse and neglect last year.
Part of Prevent Child Abuse Liberty’s week-long “Fields of Hope” initiative to raise awareness about child abuse in the county, the flag exhibit was officially presented to the public Tuesday morning during a special ceremony attended by community leaders and concerned residents.
The flags on display, however, only tell a fraction of the troubling story of child abuse in the county, according to PCAL President Leah Poole.
“There’s one (flag) for each substantiated case of child abuse in Liberty County in 2006, but it’s not all of the reported cases. There were well over 1,000 reported cases,” she said. “These are just all the ones that have been closed so far. There’s still a lot that are under investigation.”
Per capita, she noted, Liberty County has “just as many child abuse cases as Chatham County, which is really astounding considering Chatham County has about four times our population.”
Addressing attendees, Hinesville Mayor Tom Ratcliffe said statistics indicating 80 percent of local children who are abused experience neglect — which can include not feeding, bathing or clothing a child and leaving children unsupervised — shows “in an extraordinary way, that as adults, we forget to care.”
“Frighteningly, (statistics say) that 50 percent of those children that experience physical abuse, that happens before they reach the age of 7,” he continued. “What an incredible indictment of our own society and how important it becomes that (PCAL) continue to champion this cause and to raise awareness in the community.”
To carry on in its efforts to educate the community, PCAL is using flags from the exhibit to raise money to support more community outreach.
The display flags can be purchased by individuals or businesses, starting at $25 a piece. Proceeds will benefit PCAL as well as Helen’s Haven, an advocacy center in Hinesville for sexually abused children.
All flags will be delivered to their sponsors Monday, Nov. 20 to display at home or work or donate to a local school or veterans organization.
As of Tuesday, there were still 150 flags waiting to be sponsored, Poole said.
For more information on being a sponsor, call Poole at 368-4282 or David Floyd at 368-7531 or e-mail organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Flag sponsorship rates
• Stars and bars: $500 supports 25 flags
• Red: $250 supports 12 flags
• White: $100 supports 5 flags
• Blue: $25 supports 1 flags