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Organization plans fundraising gala to offset state budget cuts

POSTED: November 23, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Rebecca Davis, executive director of The Children's Center for Hope and Healing, holds the Shih Tzu puppy that will be part of the silent auction Saturday during the agency's Hope & Healing Harvest Fest Gala.

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Rebecca Davis hopes a certain puppy will bring in some much needed funding and attention for abused children at the Hope & Healing Harvest Fest Saturday.

The gala, which will feature a silent auction, food and live music, aims to raise money for the Children’s Center for Hope and Healing. The center, formerly called the Family Relations Program, provides counseling to children who are the victims of sexual abuse.

Davis said the silent auction has "something for everyone," but the most unique item in the silent auction is a purebred Shih Tzu puppy.

The 8-week-old puppy will grow to be no more than 10 pounds and will make an excellent companion for a loving owner, Davis said.

Other items include live Christmas trees, Tahitian pearls, a mountain getaway and works by local artists.

Davis said this is the first year the Children’s Center has put on a gala, and the idea for the event came after members of the organization realized it would be facing major funding cuts from state and federal levels due to the economy.

Davis said the size of the staff had to be decreased as a result of budget cuts.

"Necessity is the mother of all invention," Davis said.

After being notified it would be receiving $15,000 less in federal funds and about $38,000 less in state funds, Davis said the organization needed to come up with a way to make up those losses to continue providing services.

"It’s a combined impact of more than $50,000," Davis said.

The organization, which was started in 1984, serves 13 counties across Northeast Georgia and has offices in Gainesville and Cumming. It also is an agency of the United Way.

Davis said the services the Children’s Center provides are crucial for abused children in the community.

"The counseling is so, so important," Davis said. "Without counseling, children who have experienced sexual abuse are at very high risk for a whole host of different problems including dropping out of school, eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia, cutting, drug addiction ... just about any societal problem that people care about with teenagers. These kids are at high risk. "

Davis said the therapists at the Children’s Center are experts in trauma and offer services that are unavailable elsewhere in the area.

"Nobody else does it, not even for-profit people," Davis said. "A lot of therapists refuse to treat for liability reasons. It’s considered a high risk type of counseling practice. So if we weren’t there, not only would a lot of people who can’t afford counseling not be able to get counseling, but even people of moderate and good means would not be able to find the kind of help they need for their children because it’s just not done anywhere else."

The Children’s Center for Hope and Healing provides therapy for about 300 people every month, between 100 and 150 kids and their nonabusive parents.

Davis said it is very common for children to be abused by a parent or someone they know, so providing training and counseling for the nonabusive parent or guardian can help protect the child.

"About 80 to 90 percent of the time the child knows the person who abused them, and in many, many cases it’s a parent or another family member," Davis said.

Davis said the Children’s Center for Hope and Healing will try to raise $15,000 at the Harvest Fest.

Tickets are still available for $75 a person or $125 a couple. Those who are interested can call Davis at 770-532-6530.



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