The Center hosts first event, plans November opening

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Erica Wade, right, director, gives a tour of the family visitation center inside The Center on Monday in the Old Cigar Factory Mall, 1100 Walnut St. that is scheduled to open sometime in November.

Representatives from Kosair Charities, RiverValley Behavioral Health and Care for Children met Monday morning at The Center for a sneak peek at the new nonprofit's office suite in the Cigar Factory Mall.

The Center is a new community-focused project that seeks to support families in need.

Leaders from Kosair Charities brought along a $100,000 check -- seed money for The Center. The money represents a matching grant, which means The Center must raise another $100,000 locally.

The Center plans to start family visitation for children in out-of-home placement on Nov. 1. Other services -- connecting families with needed services -- will begin Nov. 21.

"There are great things going on in Owensboro, and we are here to learn. You guys are doing it right," said Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities.

Inman hopes The Center's model spreads across Kentucky.

Kosair Charities, a Louisville-based nonprofit, started in 1923 with the mission of improving children's lives.

"The environment children live in today is very fragile," Inman told the audience of about 50 people. "... We want to end child abuse in Kentucky."

As part of its mission, Kosair Charities partners with about 100 agencies across the state, now including The Center.

RVBH was one of the first Owensboro agencies to partner with The Center. RVBH made a donation toward The Center's $100,000 local match and renovated office space on the second floor of the Cigar Factory Mall as a home for the new nonprofit.

"Children are in crisis," said Wanda Figueroa, RiverValley & Affiliates president and CEO. "A report released last April by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ... shows that Kentucky now has the highest child abuse rate in the country."

In 2017, the state reported 22,000 victims of abuse and neglect, according to national statistics.

"Ten children died by the hands of those who were supposed to care for and protect them," Figueroa said.

According to state officials, more than 650 cases of neglect and abuse were reported in Daviess County.

For every case that is reported to officials, two go unreported, she said.

The Center is a new Daviess County nonprofit conceived to create partnerships among nonprofits and other agencies in an effort to maximize their effectiveness and provide a more user-friendly experience for people in need. The new nonprofit will offer a centralized hub of services for families and children.

Beginning Nov. 21, The Center will open on the first and third Thursdays of every month for resource days. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., residents can come to nonprofit for help with services, such as WIC, HANDS, health benefit assistance, food resources, job training, GED information, mental health services, and housing and utility assistance.

Family Fridays, informational parenting workshops, will begin in February.

"It's been a heart-warming journey to get to this point," Erica Wade, The Center's director, told the crowd. "... I have faith this project will help so many families."

During Figueroa's presentation, she thanked Care for Children leaders for starting a community conversation about ways to strengthen families and prevent adverse childhood experiences.

"I am glad our dialogue turned into action," Figueroa said. " ... The Center embodies our higher purpose, our best efforts and our steadfast hopes. None of us are as impactful as we are together because real change and real impact can only come through collaboration."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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