Celebrity Chili Challenge: Fundraiser for Children’s Advocacy Center

Ingredients for Chili dish or cuisine. Credit: RitaE / Pixabay

On Thursday, January 17, 2019, a Celebrity Chili Challenge will raise funds for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff. Cooking teams will compete for the top ranking by judges while dinner guests enjoy the homemade dishes. To top it all off, the event features live music by Dave Sadler. Doors open at 5:00 p.m. at the Whitehall Community Center; details, including fees (tax deductible) are below.

The Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff

The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) of Pine Bluff is a nonprofit that falls under the broader umbrella of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of of Arkansas. The CAC’s mission is to serve as an advocate for children who have suffered abuse, whether through crime, environments of their daily lives, or other circumstances. The advocacy helps the children and their parents or guardians find the medical care, therapy, and other support needed for the children to work toward recovery. The Center’s formal mission statement says it best:

Mission Statement of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff

To reduce the trauma to abused children during the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases and to improve the system’s response to child abuse by uniting all agencies involved.

The CAC, however, is not a clinic or healthcare provider. While the Center’s staff members are highly trained, they do not run a counseling or medical facility; nor do they get reimbursed by insurance companies.

The Staff Members of CAC: Specialized and Special

The CAC of Pine Bluff runs on a small staff of seven: the executive director, two advocates, one forensic interviewer, two sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE nurses), and one mental health therapist. On call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, these advocacy specialists carry out the CAC’s mission for children in nine counties in Arkansas’ Delta region: Jefferson, Arkansas, Cleveland, Lincoln, Desha, Bradley, Drew, Ashley, and Chicot Counties. They are opening a new satellite office in Monticello to help meet more needs.

The nature of CAC services takes devotion. As Stacy Hubanks, CAC Forensic Interviewer, talks of the children and their needs, one comes to realize that she has answered a calling, though she never says as much. The words that flow spontaneously as she describes her work with CAC reveal a heartfelt focus on the children. Her words also reveal true teamwork by the staff members and an understanding that they are all answering this calling together.

The Center’s staff members obviously have soft hearts and yet the personal strength to devote their lives to children’s advocacy. They also are quick-thinking and well-prepared with practical skills. Long days and nights helping children and families are not uncommon for the staff; they oftentimes necessarily become close to families. (Here, the term family will be used to mean the child and any caretakers, whether parents, grandparents, or other guardians.) 

Ways That CAC Helps Children

The support that a child’s family needs runs the gamut. At first, they may need advice on how to handle the situation, where to turn. CAC’s staff knows how to advise families on immediate steps to take regarding law enforcement, unless already involved, and healthcare needed right then. Oftentimes immediate needs include emotional support and even food. For example, some crimes result in a child spending hours at the hospital and the police station. Food and drink during these long ordeals provide sustenance, and blankets given personally to a child have provided comfort over and over in these situations. 

The Benefits of a CAC

When a child has been abused, it is hard to know where to turn for help, guidance, and understanding. The Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff has the experience to assist children and families navigate through a complex system while staying focused on what matters most — the child.

At a broader level, these acts of advocacy and support are first steps toward reassurance that the child’s needs will once again be taken care of. Then, for the medium and long term, the Center helps families find the right follow up healthcare, including therapy.

Oftentimes, families need help with transportation, or at least a way to pay for gas to take the child to therapy sessions or medical appointments. In southeast Arkansas, especially, some people face long drives between their homes and specialty healthcare — sometimes even general healthcare. Add to that the economic challenges faced by many in this region, and getting the child help would not be an option without the CAC providing gift cards for gas.

The CAC of Pine Bluff also makes sure the child has clothing and school supplies. The clothing is an immediate need of many growing children, especially in families with lower income. As Ms. Hubanks explains, in sexual assault cases, clothing oftentimes becomes evidence that law enforcement must keep. For many, buying more clothing to replace what had to be left behind is just not an option. 

In other cases, quick transitions from an abusive environment, even if temporary, may leave a child without basics for school and even every day living. Generally, regardless of the type of abuse and the circumstances of the child’s family, the CAC knows from experience that the children need advocacy in all these areas. Here is a list of services provided by the CAC of Pine Bluff:

Services of the CAC of Pine Bluff

  • A neutral site with a family friendly environment
  • A child friendly interview area where interviews can be recorded
  • Crisis intervention for child victims and non-offending family members
  • Case follow-up and tracking
  • Medical support for child abuse victims
  • Counseling services
  • Information and referral
  • Assistance with Arkansas Crime Victims Compensation Program
  • Community awareness presentations

Ways to Help the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff

Attending the Celebrity Chili Challenge is a great way to help the CAC of Pine Bluff. The fees and charges are tax deductible donations. Also, monetary and in-kind donations can be made at any time. Here are suggestions:

Ideas for Donations to CAC of Pine Bluff

  • Money — Contact the CAC for methods of payment (contact info below).
  • Clothing of any/all sizes — CAC helps minors of all ages, from infants to some youths who are adult-sized teens.
  • Crackers, juice, or other non-perishable, easy-open food items — Some children and youths are stuck in the police station or emergency room for hours and need something easy to eat but also healthful in these environments.
  • Blankets — These items really do provide a feeling of security to a child; recipients take the blanket home with them.
  • Fundraisers — Be sure to support the CAC through their fundraisers when possible. In addition to providing much needed funds, attendees will learn more about the CAC mission and the needs of the children they help.

And on this last note, here is information on their next fundraiser along with contact information for the CAC of Pine Bluff.

The Celebrity Chili Challenge 

The chili cook-off contest, dinner, live music, and fundraiser for The Children’s Advocacy of Center of Pine Bluff will be held at the Whitehall Community Center on January 17; but cooking teams need to sign up two days before on the 15th.

  • Live music by Dave Sadler
  • Entry deadline for cooking teams: Tuesday, January 15, 2019
  • Chili Challenge, Dinner, and Music: Thursday, January 17, 2019, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m.
  • White Hall Community Center, 9801 Dollarway Road
  • Fees: Cooking teams: $100. Admission charge: $25.
  • Sponsorship of cooking teams/tables — an option. Inquire with CAC.
  • Contributions, including fees listed here — tax deductible

For more information, contact CAC of PB at info@cacofpinebluff.org, 870-850-7105, or 870-540-7257. Also follow them on social media: Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff on Facebook.


Acknowledgment

Thank you to Stacy Hubanks, Forensic Interviewer with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Pine Bluff, for providing insights and context about their mission and services.

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