Fresh paint and 3,500 square feet of new drywall are the obvious signs that something big is happening at the former Leighton Hall in White Cloud. But there’s also a sense of excitement and possibility growing in the refurbished space.
The new Center for Hope and Healing is the joint vision of Newaygo County Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (PCA) and Open Arms Child Advocacy Center. It allows PCA to relocate from its pole barn-turned-office and Open Arms from its space in an apartment complex in Big Rapids. Both organizations needed more room for their work with children and families.
“We knew collaboration would be the future of both organizations,” said Tara Nelson, PCA’s executive director and an Open Arms board member. “We have the same goals and want the same outcome.”
Together, the organizations provide an array of services to build stronger families and prevent abuse while also supporting children who have experienced abuse. PCA offers services like infant safe sleep education, teaching children about body safety, and the popular Summer Magic program. Through Open Arms, children who have experienced abuse meet with a specially-trained forensic interviewer to tell their story just once while law enforcement, investigators, and others observe from another room. Follow-up services are offered to help begin the healing process.
“It was difficult for families to know what to do and where to go for help before,” said Tara. “Here we can say, ‘We know exactly what to do and we’ll walk you through the next steps.’ We can see them through the whole process.”
In addition to private, child-friendly spaces for forensic interviews, the center will include areas for art therapy, supervised visitation, events, and more when it opens this spring. It’s a big project that came together rapidly thanks to significant community support, including a matching grant from the Community Foundation. PCA was able to purchase and renovate the building debt-free, giving two organizations a new home and new opportunities.
“We’re looking forward to the growth both organizations can have here,” said Tara. “The new center opens the doors for greater impact.”