Child advocates unveil new one-stop center to fight abuse

Will service Lake County families

WHITE CLOUD — Two organizations championing the safety and wellbeing of children unveiled a new one-stop facility providing comprehensive services designed to help fight child abuse and empower families.

Open Arms Child Advocacy Center and Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect’ new Center for Hope and Healing is a 23,000-square-foot building in White Cloud. Once fully renovated, it will provide a welcoming, safe and private environment for families in Lake, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola counties.

“The Center for Hope and Healing is a safe sanctuary where trained experts and professionals can provide a range of services that are designed to empower families and children against abuse and neglect,” said Tara Nelson, executive director of NCPCAN. “We are truly excited to begin the work of upgrading our facility so we can welcome children and their loved ones across the four counties that we serve.

“The 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,” she added. “The center represents a landmark step forward in the fight against child abuse and neglect in West Michigan, and we can’t wait to get started.”

The Center for Hope and Healing will feature dedicated spaces for a range of services to prevent abuse and neglect, including:

• 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

“ … The Center for Hope and Healing will become a reality that can help more children stay safer and enjoy a brighter, more hopeful future,” said Amy Taylor, executive director of OACAC. “The Center of Hope and Healing is the result of true community collaboration and the hard work of champions for children across four counties.

“While we still have work to do ahead of us, the Center for Hope and Healing is now a reality that sends a powerful message, that we are committed to protecting children, giving them a voice and empowering them so every child is safe and has the opportunity to thrive,” she added.

OACAC and NCPCAN are launching a capital campaign to raise funds to complete the renovation of the building, located at 601 N. Evergreen Drive in White Cloud.

The renovation plans include replacing the building’s roof, upgrading heating and cooling, updating the ceiling and floors, and pouring new asphalt.

Though the capital campaign was launched just a few weeks ago, the effort has already raised financial and in-kind donations to begin work on upgrading the building, originally built in the 1980s as a shopping center.

“You sort of exponentially benefit if you can find safe, risk-free environments for children,” said Dennis Adama, a major donor to and supporter of the Center for Hope and Healing. “Their opportunities to develop, to be responsible, independent, self-directed people are greatly enhanced. Those are the reasons I think people should be involved with this and should contribute to this.”

OACAC’s existing facility in Big Rapids and NCPCAN’s facility in Newaygo are too small to accommodate the growing number of families or more abuse and neglect victims. The existing facilities also offer only minimal privacy and comfort to children. Additionally, during disease outbreaks, cramped locations increase the risk of infection spread.

“With the growing need for services that can support the safe and healthy development of children, the Center for Hope and Healing will serve as a sanctuary for more kids and families across the four counties we serve and where they can feel secure and comfortable,” said Wendy Samuels, chair of OACAC’s board of directors. “For years, the communities we serve have worked tirelessly using resources we had to fight abuse and neglect.”

“The Center for Hope and Healing can now build upon the trust of our families and provide more services to more children and families in a convenient one-stop location so we can help our communities move toward a stronger, more secure future,” she added.