RHEA COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) – Rhea County’s first child advocacy center is now open to the public.
There was mix of optimism and sadness in the air at its grand opening .
“It was really important for these rural counties to be served and for
the children and the victims to be served,” says Laura Travis, lead coordinator.
The Children’s Advocacy Centers of Tennessee is a statewide membership
organization dedicated to helping communities respond to allegations
of child abuse.
Each center is named in memory of a child who lost their life due to
child abuse. The center in Rhea County is named Landon’s Place, after
a 5 year old boy who was murdered in 2013.
Both his sisters attended the grand opening.
“There were two siblings in the home. They were placed into foster
care and luckily their foster family adopted them and they’re in a
wonderful, loving home,” explained Detective Rocky Potter with Rhea County Sheriff’s Department.
Marsha Yessick designed the interior of the center to have a calming
effect on children.
“I said, all children love animals. And so I decided that the theme of
this space should be ‘animals are great’, and that’s how we started,” says Yessick.
The opening of the children’s advocacy center comes with a dark
background, with Detective Rocky Potter citing a rise in crimes
against children over the last couple years in Rhea County.
“Five or six years ago we had gotten with our district attorney, Mike
Taylor, and told him our numbers were rising. We were having to drive
around to different C-A-C’s to get our children’s interviews done
which is sometimes a hardship for the families,” says Detective Potter.
The center is located in the old health department building near the
justice center. Before renovations, lead coordinator Laura Travis
called the building a dump.
“When I saw it, I immediately knew that the building was structurally
sound, but it was just ugly and it was not conducive at all for
children,” says Travis, about the building.
But after the Rhea County Commission approved the lease back in
February, the center was able to raise around $34,000 in donations in
just five weeks.
“There’s no way that in five weeks we could’ve raised the amount of
money that we did without God’s hand in this. It was a total community
effort,” Travis says.