Advocates for Children
While the colorful toys already are taking root at NorthSide's Adairsville branch, representatives from Advocates for Children, Bartow County Department of Family & Children Services and the Cartersville-Bartow County Exchange Club will plant another set of pinwheels at the bank's Cartersville site on Tuesday.
"This is a tradition that's done all over the state that began probably eight or nine years ago in various locations that have chartered councils of Prevent Child Abuse Georgia," said Patty Eagar, executive director for Advocates for Children, a nonprofit in Cartersville that serves more than 2,600 area youth through its Flowering Branch Children's Shelter and services that assist in the awareness, prevention and treatment of child abuse. "I really don't know why they decided to start with a pinwheel but their original intent was to plant one pinwheel for every report of child abuse in that county for the previous year and we still do it that way. ... We still plant one for every report of child abuse in the prior year and there will be nearly 900 of those."
While in the past, Advocates observed National Child Abuse Prevention Month with pinwheel displays and a press conference, this year the organization is extending their offerings.
On Monday, Advocates will present a Light of Hope ceremony on the steps of the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center at 135 W. Cherokee Ave. Starting at 8 p.m., candles will be lit to recognize those in foster care and stress the importance of Bartow County Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteers.
A program of Advocates, Bartow CASA was implemented in 2001 and now is located in the Advocates' Annex at 113 Douglas St. in Cartersville. Along with talking to children, who are in state custody, the volunteers gather information from individuals surrounding the child to make an informed recommendation to the judge concerning permanent placement. Some of the people interviewed could include the children's relatives, teachers, therapists, doctors, day care providers and neighbors.
Among those speaking at Monday's gathering will be Bartow County Juvenile Court Judge Velma Tilley, Assistant District Attorney Rosemary Greene and Bartow County DFCS Director Lynn Green.
"What I would want them to know is how committed I am personally to the protection of children," Tilley said. "... [The court is] sort of a service provider but we're an intervention as well. If parents are going to abuse and neglect their children, we will intervene and we will remove children.
"And the next level is to have the court-ordered services to try to assist families in being better. But if the improvements are not made, then we will find a place where children can be safe. So we're going to insist that children are safe in this community."
Following the Light of Hope ceremony, Advocates will offer another program to the public on Wednesday. To be held at the Cartersville-Bartow Chamber of Commerce at 6:30 p.m., the presentation will feature psychologists and sexual abuse experts Steve Knauts and Julie Medlin, who will discuss their recently published book "Avoiding Sexual Dangers: A Parent's Guide to Protecting Your Child."
Also this month, Advocates will provide various items to the community, such as blue "Stop Child Abuse" wristbands and prevention information, at the Cartersville Public Library and the courthouse during National Crime Victims' Rights Week April 22 to 28.
"[This is] what Advocates is all about," Eagar said. "We are not in the fundraising business, we're in the child abuse prevention and treatment business. And everybody who learns something about how to prevent or how to help can help us to gather more volunteers and more committed citizens."
Along with raising money for Advocates, the Cartersville-Bartow County Exchange Club is dispersing information about child abuse during its Blue Ribbon Campaign in April.
"National Exchange Club's major service project is child abuse prevention and it's something the local club's been involved with since it's been in existence -- since the mid-'80s, [which] is when our club was organized," said Kevin McElwee, secretary for the local Exchange Club. "Certainly raising awareness is one of our major goals and educating the public. And that's what is going to be going on Friday evening at the [Richard Bell] Field.
"We are going to be handing out brochures on parenting, how to deal with kids, reading to children, dealing with preteens and teenagers and all of those types of issues that parents are faced with. And then we are raising money for the Advocates for Children ... [which] is our local organization that kind of coordinates all the different avenues of child abuse prevention, with their shelter [and] with their court appointed representatives."
On Friday, the Cartersville High School baseball team will wear T-shirts sporting the Preventing Child Abuse Blue Ribbon to draw attention to the cause. During the 5:55 p.m. game, Exchange Club members also will be distributing educational materials and pins as well as selling the specially designed T-shirts and collecting donations. Throughout the month of April, the public also can make a $1 donation and purchase a Blue Ribbon cutout card at various businesses, such as Holt's Pharmacy and Cartersville Animal Hospital.
In recognition of the club's efforts and the need to prevent child abuse, Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini and Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown signed a proclamation Wednesday.
According to the document, "Child abuse is a serious and growing problem affecting more than 3.2 million of our nation's children annually and 400 children locally; and ... the Cartersville-Bartow County Exchange Club, through its support of Advocates for Children, [the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County], Bartow Christmas and other community service activities, is making progress in stopping this crime against families and children. ... Now Therefore; we the leaders of this community do hereby proclaim the month of April in the year 2012 as 'Child Abuse Prevention Month' in Bartow County and the City of Cartersville and call upon all residents to become involved to better understand, recognize and respond to this grievous problem; and Further, we congratulate the Exchange Club for its continued success in helping families break free from the cycle of child abuse."
Further details about the Exchange Club's efforts can be obtained by calling McElwee at 404-272-7651. For more information about Advocates' Child Abuse Prevention Month offerings, call 770-387-1143 or visit www.advochild.org.