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Helen's Haven honors supporters during child abuse prevention month
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Helen's Haven's namesake, Helen Stanford (center) and HPD Capt. Stella Sturla present the 2008 Helen's Hero Award to Sallie. W. Richardson at a ceremony on April 22. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
April was National Child Abuse prevention Month and, locally, Helen's Haven Children's Advocacy Center in had an open house on April 24 to honor the volunteers, law officers, counselors and child care specialists who make the facility function.
"The main thing is to say thank you for those who support us," Terri Liles, licensed master social worker and coordinator of Helen's Haven, said. "The volunteers, donors, contributors and the folks who use our agency on a regular basis as well as recognize those folks who have gone above and beyond for us."
Helen's Haven currently serves six counties; Liberty, Bryan, Evans, Long, McIntosh and Tattnall as part of the Atlantic Judicial Circuit.
The center provides services such as promoting awareness, education, training, counseling, support and is a haven during investigations of alleged abuse and criminal activity directed at minors.
Butch Kesner, a detective with the Hinesville Police Department who specializes in youth matters, said the center is available whenever he needs to conduct a forensic interview and he is happy and willing to help Liles as much as he can.
"Due to the nature of the cases that I have I am down here quite frequently," he said. "I am satisfied that we have this agency that offers help in the investigation and also offers counseling and help for the children."
Kesner said crimes against children have been around since the dawn of time and parents sometimes take out frustrations on the weakest link near them and that is usually a child. He said sometimes the child might be the cause of their frustration. But he said the crimes of a sexual nature are like a disease with no cure in sight.
Kesner added that he has a 12-year-old daughter and due to his work he finds he is protective of her.
"She is influenced by the things I deal with," Kesner said.
According to the GBI, Liberty County has 76 registered sex offenders as of this March. Since January more than 15 cases, involving some form of child abuse, neglect or cruelty charge, have come across the Liberty County court calendars with many awaiting trial dates. Liles said they have worked with roughly 350 families in the six counties so far.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families, an estimated 905,000 children in the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect in 2006. Of the 905,000 substantiated reports, the majority (64.1 percent) involved neglect. For 2006, an estimated 1,530 children died, with more than three-quarters of the victims younger than 4.
"One case is way too many when you talk about children being hurt," Liles said. "Our referrals has increased but I don't know if that means that abuse has increased or people are more aware of the services we provide. Certainly our center is being used more and more."
Liles said the mission and focus of the center is to reduce the number of cases and to educate others on methods of preventing in order to minimize the risk of trauma and traumatic experiences to children.
This year's Helen's Haven Hero Award went to Sallie. W. Richardson, a former director of the Liberty County Department of Family and Children Services office, for her dedication to the center. Helen's Haven's namesake, Helen Stanford and HPD Capt. Stella Sturla of HPD, presented the award to Richardson.
In addition District Attorney Tom Durden presented a special recognition award to Tara Jennings, who pioneered the start of Helen's Haven and paved the way for the center's opening.
Others recognized
Individuals supporters and volunteers
Heather Brancato, Loran Brown, Jackie Cassidy, Gina Farrell, Jodie Feagin, Angela Harris, Greg Loskoski, Matthew Mahoney, Dana Prostrollo, Deborah Sawyer, Helen Stanford, Margit Williams and Teresa Win.
Community supporters
Brewton-Parker College Student Action Group, First Methodist Church of Hinesville Christian Women's Ministry, First Presbyterian Church Women's Circle #2, Liberty County Sheriff's Office and the United Way of the Coastal Empire.
Business supporters
City of Flemington, Radio Shack, Target and Wal-Mart #826.
Helen' Haven wish list
C and D sized batteries, floor lamp, end tables, first aid kit, four-drawer file cabinet, office desk, small dining room table and two chairs, disposable cameras, digital camera, external multi-format DVD burner, multimedia projector, overhead projector, internet services, children's magazine subscriptions, child friendly carpet, colorful framed artwork, bookshelf, individually wrapped juices and snacks, water based paints and sponge brushes, money donations.
Helen's Haven Children's Advocacy Center's mailing address is P.O. Box 1544, Hinesville, Ga., 31310. It's phone number is (912) 369-2326.
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