Representatives from more than 20 local businesses, government agencies and other organizations on Thursday attended the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center’s open house to learn about the center’s work with child abuse cases.
The event was one of several that the nonprofit plans for this month. April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, observed nationwide to raise awareness about preventing child abuse.
“We can’t do what we do without having community support,” said Rose Jergens, the center’s executive director. “Businesses need to understand who the people are who are in our community, and how hurt people are.”
The center is a bright, colorful building in downtown Cortez, full of children’s toys and artwork. Jergens explained how the center’s trained interviewers, medical examiners and therapists use the child-friendly atmosphere to help investigate abuse claims. The center also offers long-term counseling for victims and educates parents and teachers on how to prevent child abuse.
Four Corners Child Advocacy Center, and similar centers in Montrose and Grand Junction, are the only three such organizations in western Colorado. Jergens said that in 2016, the advocacy center worked with more than 400 children who had been directly or indirectly affected by abuse.
Attendees at the open house included people from businesses like Moose and More Ice Cream, The Farm Bistro and Kokopelli Bike and Board, as well as representatives from the Cortez City Council and Chamber of Commerce. Center staff led tours of the building, offered door prizes and showed a promotional video about their work.
Brent McWhirter, co-owner of Moose and More, said he likes to keep up with what’s happening in the community.
“We get questions all the time about different things, in the shop,” he said. “We’re kind of like counselors as well as ice cream sellers.”
Jergens said she hoped the event would help the center raise money at its auction later this year. The nonprofit receives funding from various state grants, but also relies on local donations. She also is looking for people to fill the center’s 15-person board of directors, which has two empty seats.
Center staff also promoted activities they plan for this month, including a monthlong pinwheel decorating contest in local schools. Pinwheels are nationally recognized symbols of child abuse awareness, and the Child Advocacy Center asks elementary students to decorate them with messages and designs related to the topic. Matt Keefauver, a board member who also works in the Montezuma-Cortez school district, said 20 teachers are involved this year from Cortez, in addition to those in Dolores and Mancos.
“We’ve got more kids ... this year, than we have in the past,” Keefauver said.
The pinwheels will be displayed outside the Welcome Center on April 21. On April 20, the center plans a free class called “Stewards of Children,” starting at 5:30 p.m.