Children in Hall and Dawson counties in need of a home now have one.
After nearly a decade of fundraising and preparation, the Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children Program and the Edmondson-Telford Center for Children have opened the Little House on Washington Street to help abused and neglected children.
The new building houses playrooms, interview rooms, an examination room and a family visitation room to provide all aspects of victim services to the community.
"We thank you for little children," said Rev. Terry Walton of Gainesville First United Methodist Church, who opened Friday’s open house with a prayer. "We were once like them."
CASA and Edmondson-Telford workers had tears in their eyes as they dedicated each room for families who helped to bring the project to fruition. Staff led community members around the building on tours of the new home.
"When we didn’t have this, there was no good place for kids to go to be helped," said Carey Sartain, 13, daughter of Gainesville attorney Lydia Sartain, who helped to initiate the idea. The forensic interview room is named for her.
"Every community should have something like this," said Callie Sartain, 15. "There will always be kids in broken homes who need help."
Having a safe and permanent house for children has been a "long-coming dream," said Connie Stephens, CASA executive director.
"We can serve all the kids’ needs in one building," she said, thanking many community members in the room who helped with different aspects of the construction process. "Everything with the building came together on time and for a lower cost than we anticipated."
For those who were involved in the process, the open house was "heart-warming," said Missy Burgess, who works at Lake Lanier Island Resorts where baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro has held annual golf tournaments to raise funds for the house.
"The building they used before this one was a little tiny house with six rooms. It just gives you chill bumps to see this now," she said. "It makes you so proud to see this come full circle and see the people who started this are still here."