Kiwanis gets update on HOPE centers

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 12/1/17

Cleveland's Kiwanis Club members got to learn a little more about one of the community's most beneficial, but least recognized organizations, at this week's luncheon at the Elks Lodge Thursday.Kelley …

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Kiwanis gets update on HOPE centers

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Cleveland's Kiwanis Club members got to learn a little more about one of the community's most beneficial, but least recognized organizations, at this week's luncheon at the Elks Lodge Thursday.

Kelley Weber, a former Bradley County educator, and Teresa Grant were the guest speakers this week, and discussed the 10th District's HOPE Child Advocacy Centers.

There are two physical centers in Cleveland and Athens, serving hundreds of hapless children in the four-county area of Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. 

Due to the strict federal and state guidelines for information available in the treatment and care of children who have been the victims of violence, neglect, or physical or sexual abuse, the agency's successes receive little public attention.

The agency's work in the community is far greater than most Kiwanis Club members realized.

Grant, a longtime employee of HOPE, said they work with up to 250 children in the Cleveland area, and as many as 500 in the four-county region

Weber, who spent 18 years teaching at Bradley County's Lake Forest Middle School before joining HOPE just over a year ago, provided he lion's share of Thursday's presentation.

November Program Chairman Jaynese Waddell introduced the guest speakers to the Kiwanians.

"I've worked with this group for the last three to four years, and we're very fortunate to have them here," she said.

Weber led off by saying, "We're unable to introduced you to our kids, but we can show you a video of our facilities and some of our activities."

"We provide a service to kids who are the victims of abuse and violence," Weber added. She also emphasized all of these young victims are referred by the court system, or other government organizations. "They can't just walk in off the street," she pointed out.

They said these are often very serious situations, and usually difficult for the child without the entire family being involved.

"We explain to them what we do, and what resources are available," said Weber. 

The agency provides a forensic medical examination and a medical examination, head to toe, from professionals with specialized training and equipment. Grant and Weber said it is important to make sure the child is healthy.

"Above all else, we attempt to make them feel comfortable," said Grant.

There are counseling services available for the young victims, or family members or others involved. "But, we don't want the children to think the center is a place to play," said Grant. "These are serious, and sometimes scary, situations."

Grant said the center receives some funding from United Way, thus Waddell's involvement, but it also receives assistance from several other organizations.

She said HOPE's annual funding is around $850,000.

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Freiberg, a Kiwanian, attended the luncheon and was highly complimentary of HOPE's service in the region.

"These situations come up frequently, and there is usually a lot of shock," said Freiberg. "It's such a blessing to have these people in our community, and the center is a safe place, and their people are not pushy."

The judge also pointed out that child sex cases are the hardest to act on, and the most difficult.

At the close of Thursday's program, Weber and Grant addressed several related questions from the Kiwanis members.

In other Kiwanis business:

• Traci Hamilton had some great news for her fellow Kiwanis members. 

The club's annual project to provide coats to Head Start children has been concluded prior to December. Kiwanis members are providing 93 coats, or outfits, to children at the Blythe-Bower Head Start program this year.

"The bags are packed and ready to be delivered at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13," said Hamilton in urging members to participate in this enjoyable part of the project.

June Montgomery, of the Head Start program and a Kiwanian, was at Thursday's luncheon to join Hamilton in celebration.

• The club's new seargent-at-arms is former President Jeff Miller. Miller is replacing Ramon Torres, who is the club's president elect following current President Mike Stoess.

• Miller was at the meeting with a guest, new Cleveland attorney Dusty Rymer.

Rymer is the son of Kiwanis member Bridget Slack.

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