Commission gives back

Cailey Moore
Staff Writer

Tuesday, May 3 was a day of giving at the Pocahontas County Commission meeting as a number of local and out-of-county individuals, groups and organizations approached the commission with requests for contributions.

Child and Youth Advocacy Center Executive Director Katherine Thompson appeared before the commission with a request for a $5,000 contribution.

“Essentially, we provide support and advocacy services for child victims of abuse and neglect and their non-offending caregivers,” Thompson explained. “We also partner with local agencies in each of our service counties [Greenbrier, Monroe and Pocahontas] to better coordinate child abuse and neglect investigations.”

One way CYAC serves the victims is by providing forensic interviews. The organization has a trained forensic interviewer on staff, and a structured, evidence-based approach is used when interviewing the suspected victims.

Each interview is recorded on video and serves two purposes: by recording the interviews, the suspected victim only has to tell their story once, and, in court, the recording can serve in the place of a child’s testimony.

“The child is less likely to have to take the stand and testify against their abuser,” Thompson explained.

Additionally, CYAC works closely with a family advocate, as well as a trauma-focused therapist.

The advocate provides advocacy and support services to the children and their families from the moment they step foot in the organization’s door, throughout the investigation and court process, and longer, if necessary.

Each of the three services is provided at no cost to the victims.

In addition to the in-house services, CYAC works alongside local agencies within the county – Family Resource Center, CASA, the Prosecuting Attorney and more – on multidisciplinary investigative teams.

“We work very closely with these agencies to coordinate child abuse and neglect investigations and to ensure that no victims fall through the cracks,” Thompson said. “The whole idea behind child advocacy center is that we’re providing a multidisciplinary team approach to these investigations, as well as treatment, intervention, prevention and prosecution, as well.”

Currently, the organization doesn’t have a satellite location in the county, but Thompson is dedicated to reviving the program locally. Together with the Family Refuge Center, Thompson has applied for a grant through the Office of Violence Against Women that would allow CYAC to obtain office space and hire part-time staff in the county.

With the commission’s $5,000 contribution, Thompson will divide the money – putting $2,500 toward the salary of the forensic interviewer, and the other $2,500 toward the salary of the family advocate.

“I’m requesting funding for those two positions in particular because those two individuals work most directly with kids and families here in Pocahontas County, as well as our fellow agencies” Thompson added.

At the end of her presentation, the commission approved Thompson’s request.

In addition to Thompson, three other organizations presented their requests for contribution.

Dawn Workman and Pocahontas County High School football coach Doug Burns – along with Jessica Shinaberry – returned to the commission with a request for a $1,000 contribution to help off-set the cost of purchasing new Riddell SpeedFlex helmets for the 2016-2017 football season.

The helmets in question have undergone testing by Virginia Tech researchers and have received a five-star rating through the Virginia Tech Helmet Ratings. While no helmet has the ability to prevent concussions 100 percent, the Riddell SpeedFlex has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of concussions in players.

“They’re one of the best pieces of equipment you can put on a young man’s head,” Burns said of the helmet.

With limited funding, Burns is not able to purchase enough helmets to cover every player on his team at once, but his goal is to purchase eight to ten helmets a year until every player is using one.

Despite their desire to help, the commission was unable to support the request at this time.

Burns and Workman appeared before the commission last Spring and were awarded $3,000 to put toward shoulder pads and two new helmets. Because of this, a check was written to the Board of Education for the 2015-2016 Fiscal Year, and the commission is unable to write a check to the same entity twice in a fiscal year.

The 2015-2016 Fiscal Year ends in July, and the commission instructed Burns to return with his request at the August 2 meeting.

Mountain Resource Conservation and Development Area, Inc. was the next organization in search of funding.

Earlier in the year, a letter was submitted to the commission with a request for a $1,000 contribution. However, due to the lack of a representative in attendance, the commission was unable to fulfill their request.

The final organization to approach the commission for funding was Diana Hinkle and the Tucker Community Foundation.

TCF began in 1989 and has since grown to encompass an eight-county region – including Pocahontas County. Each year, the organization undergoes a competitive grant cycle, and more often than not, are faced with the dilemma of receiving numerous grant requests and not having enough money to help everyone who asks.

To off-set the challenge of this, TCF created a user-friendly, healthy event that would benefit anyone who chose to participate, and in 2007, “Run For It” was born.

The 2k walk and 5k run through Davis provides an opportunity to create and leverage additional resources for the communities in TCF’s eight-county region, as well as motivate members of those counties to participate in a healthy activity.

“It’s part of a year-long program that rewards the efforts of community groups and non-profits who are trying to raise awareness and earning for their causes,” Hinkle added. “By virtue of the work that they do all year, we bring them to Davis for this 2k walk and 5k run and then we reward those efforts.”

Last year, the commission awarded Hinkle a $2,500 contribution, and she returned again with the hope of receiving the same amount for the 2016-2017 Fiscal Year.

However, due to the fiscal year ending in July, the commission was unable to grant her request at this time. Similar to the situation with Burns and his request for contribution for the PCHS football team, Hinkle was asked to return for the August 2 meeting with her 501(c) certificate.

In other news:

  • The commission moved to retain Joe Clendenin at a cost of no more than $2,500 for repairs to the Pocahontas County Courthouse fire alarm system.
  • The commission approved the following budget revisions:
    • A sum of $3,341 to be reimbursed to the Pocahontas County Jail
    • A sum of $4,480 to be reimbursed to the Prosecuting Attorney
    • A sum of $7,303 to be reimbursed to Pocahontas Memorial Hospital

The next regular County Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 19, at 5:30 p.m.

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