Children’s Safe Harbor commemorates lives saved with annual pinwheel event in Conroe
THE WOODLANDS, TX – Local nonprofit organization and child advocacy group Children’s Safe Harbor recently held its tenth annual pinwheel display installation outside the Alan B. Sadler Commissioners Court Building in downtown Conroe. At the event, nearly 2,400 pinwheels were planted on the grounds in a breathtaking display to call attention to the lives served – and saved – of children by the organization.
Victoria Constance, executive director of Children’s Safe Harbor, was thrilled at the popularity of the event. “April is National Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month. This is one of the most beautiful ways for the community to see that every single pinwheel represents a unique child that we helped in the previous year, and there have been 2,398 interviews of children ages two through 17 who walked through our doors because someone made a hotline call,” she said.
The reach of CSH is countywide; there are 24 law enforcement agencies that have signed letters of agreement that say the best way to serve abused children is to bring them to a neutral safe space, which is what the Harbor is. There are 70 children’s advocacy centers in Texas and more than 800 around the country.
“Our first customers are always CPS and law enforcement because they’re investigating the crimes of sexual abuse, physical abuse, trafficking, children who have witnessed homicides, and more,” said Constance. “The first step once a child comes into the Harbor is to provide a forensic interview, and we’re the only nonprofit that provides that service. We have counseling, we provide medical examinations, we have family advocates, and they all work together so that the children can walk through the hallway of healing and justice.”
Brett Ligon, district attorney of Montgomery County, was one of the dozens of Conroe public officials and citizens who hunkered down and planted numerous pinwheels.
“Today is a memorialization of the work that occurs every day throughout the year by Children’s Safe Harbor. As we stand here, people will drive by 105 in front of the Commissioners Court and see more than 2,300 pinwheels, each one of which represents a child in Montgomery County that CSH had the opportunity and blessings to provide services to,” he said.
Ligon explained that Conroe City Council had initially voted to make a $100,000 donation to CSH on behalf of mental services that they’re able to provide to children. Victoria Constance had asked him to go before the council and challenge them to match at a 4-to-1 ratio; Councilman Ray MacDonald took it a step further and got the city’s donation to $150,000, prompting the DA’s office to present a check for $37,500, which goes directly to CSH.
Shanna Redwine, special victims division chief at the DA’s office, echoed Ligon’s dedication to and appreciation of CSH and the pinwheel event.
I think it’s so important to have a visual representation of the good work that Safe Harbor does,” she said. “If we as law enforcement, prosecutors, and medical professionals are doing our job right, then the first and only stop a child makes after experiencing abuse is Children’s Safe Harbor. We don’t make that child bounce around; we go to them. And the model at CSH allows for us to communicate and collaborate and make sure that no child is falling through the cracks. So when we go to that child and get professional, specialized, trained law enforcement agents to wrap around those kiddos, we can stop that abuse and we can find justice for them.”
One group in particular that stood our in the pinwheel-planting was a nonprofit organization called Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA). Woodlands Online talked with a lady who went by the name GPS, who is an officer of Montgomery County’s “Seven Coves” chapter of BACA.
“We have about 29 chapters in Texas alone,” she proudly asserted. “Typically, each chapter has a level 1 adoption where we invite a child into our family. We have 50 kids per year in our chapter here in Montgomery County. Our mission is to empower kids and to make them unafraid of the world in which they live. It’s our mission to help them become kids again. We do quarterly events for the kids so they can experience normalcy, and we have field trips and visit them at their homes, we take them two and from therapy or court, whatever we can do to empower them.”
GPS invited people to visit www.bacaworld.org to learn more. “We’re always looking for members. Anyone who is interested will have to undergo a strict background check; we’re very particular about which people join us because we’re very protective of our kids.”
When asked what the public could do to assist Children’s Safe Harbor in its efforts, Shanna Redwine minced no words. “Be that safe adult. What we know about child abuse is that it goes on for months or years without anybody knowing because it happens behind closed doors. It’s designed that way because offenders don’t want to be caught. So you have to be that safe space for a child to talk about what happens, and you have to do everything you can to get them out of it. If you see something, say something; tell people about Safe Harbor, make a child abuse report with the CPS hotline, call law enforcement, don’t do nothing.”
To learn more about Children’s Safe Harbor, visit www.childrenssafeharbor.org. Also, be sure to have on hand the Child Abuse Hotline: 800-252-5400.