2013 Leadership Class plans to support existing child advocacy programs with technology upgrades, room makeover

2013 Leadership Class plans to support existing child advocacy programs with technology upgrades, room makeover

The mission of the 2013 Leadership McPherson class is “to provide a more comforting environment for McPherson County youths by enhancing two existing child advocacy programs, (Heart 2 Heart Child Advocacy Center and the McPherson County Child Identification Program) to be more efficient and effective through upgrades to their technology, and by committing to the future success of these programs”.

Members of this year’s class presented their class project, to develop a Mac  Child Advocacy Program, to the McPherson Leadership Board of Trustees,  Chamber members  and guests at the class’ celebration lunch on December 17 at the McPherson Country Club. The lunch marked the completion of the class’ leadership curriculum, offered by the McPherson Chamber of Commerce that began this past summer.

Inspired by the passion of one class member, Assistant Chief of Police Mike  Terry, the ten member group rallied around the idea of supporting two programs that already provide essential services to the youth of McPherson County.  In particular, they wanted to support programs that care for the safety and physical and emotional well-being of children.

Class members introduced each of the two programs receiving support, including what services they currently provide, as well as what their needs are.  In the case of the Child Identification Program, the software currently being used by the local Masons to provide Child Identification packets to parents is shared with several other counties and needs to be upgraded.  These packets are vital tools for parents to give to law enforcement if the child goes missing.

“The first three hours are the most crucial in the search for a missing child,” said class member Jessica Griffith, Certified Massage Therapist. “During this time the ability to hand over a child identification packet to law enforcement saves valuable time and shares crucial information.”

An upgrade of the software, called CHIPS, costs approximately $5,000.  The class will be seeking grant funding for this portion of the project.  Once the new software is acquired, the class will help plan and conduct the first Child  Identification Program event with a school, organization or family fair.

Celeste Carlson, a class member who works at the McPherson County Community Foundation, introduced the work of Heart 2 Heart, an advocacy center  that provides a safe space for children who have been abused to be  interviewed just one time by law enforcement or social services. This is a major  improvement from how abused children were interviewed as recently as 15 years ago.

“Heart to Heart Child Advocacy Center saves children from having to recount their story a multitude of times,” Carlson said. “This is important because children want for those they trust to understand what happened. Each time they are asked to recount their experience, their feelings of being understood has the potential to change. With collaboration through the Child Advocacy Center, the abused/neglected child is exposed to less trauma by being formally questioned only one time.”

In order to connect with children more effectively, document interviews  more easily, and provide a welcoming environment for a more diverse  group of children, the center would benefit greatly from several pieces  of technology, including an iPad and a SmartBoard, as well as some new  decorations and toys for the waiting area.  The class has plans to acquire these items using funding available through the Leadership  McPherson program, supplemented by gifts from the community.

Members of the 2013 Leadership Class are now accepting donations for the Mac  Child Advocacy Program. Gifts will initially fund current technology needs for Heart to Heart, as well as additional toys for the welcome  area.  Once those items are secured, additional gifts will help build up an endowment for future needs of these and similar organizations that advocate for the safety and well-being of children in McPherson County. Checks, corporate matches or other gifts can be made payable to the  McPherson County Community Foundation at 206 S. Main St., McPherson, in care of Mac Child Advocacy Program.

“Our class has been very moved by the work of these organizations, ”  said class member Janelle Flory Schrock of Dyck Arboretum of the Plains. ” They are providing services to either help law enforcement act as quickly as possible when a child is missing or to provide a comforting and healing environment for children who have been hurt.  Our class’s goal is to help those people do their job as efficiently and  effectively as possible.  We hope to take some of the financial and  fundraising burden off of their shoulders, so they can keep doing what  they do best.”

In addition to Terry, Carlson and Flory Schrock,  members of the class include Megan Anderson of Kansas Secured Title,  Graham Crain of Central Christian College, Jessica Griffith, Certified  Massage Therapist, Kendra Hopp of First Bank Kansas, Sherry Jerome of Winfield Solutions, LLC, Adrian Morales of Home State Bank, and Julie  Wondra of Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chtd.

The McPherson Chamber of Commerce will offer enrollment for the 2014  Leadership McPherson Class in the new year. To learn more about  Leadership McPherson, stop by the Chamber office at 306 N. Main St. or call 620-241-3303.  Many photos of this year’s class sessions are posted on the McPherson Chamber Facebook page at this link.