Few days go by when a new child doesn’t walk through the door at the Tuscaloosa Children’s Center looking for a friendly face, a comforting word or a helping hand. Thanks to help from the Alabama Power Foundation, the center will soon move into a new facility, allowing it to better serve victims of child abuse and neglect.
The Alabama Power Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the Tuscaloosa Children’s Center to help pay for relocation and expansion. For more than 30 years, the agency has provided forensic interviewing, counseling, advocacy and community education services to child abuse victims and their supportive family members.
“The grant from the Alabama Power Foundation means absolutely everything to us,” said Dr. Ebony Johnson, TCC executive director. “Due to economic development activities in this area of town, there is a need for us to relocate our current facility. Our child advocacy center provided direct intervention services for 312 children last year. Because we’ve seen an increase in the number of clients, this is an incredible opportunity for us to identify a new space that can meet our growing needs.”
Heyward Gould added the move would have been almost impossible without the foundation’s support.
“The children’s center is a small organization that works on a shoestring budget,” said Gould, treasurer of the TCC board of directors and regional president of First Bank in Tuscaloosa. “From a capital standpoint, we just didn’t have the money. Having a partner like the Alabama Power Foundation step out there and say, ‘We are giving money. You do it, too.’ That was huge. Having the foundation’s support gave us a lot of goodwill in the community when we went to ask others for money.”
Since 1987, the children’s center has been housed in a building that was originally the home of a Tuscaloosa family. The Reece Phifer Jr. family donated their home to the agency to use as office space. The center is now moving to a new building that will allow it to offer expanded services to more children than ever before.
After renovations are complete, the new 2,000-square-foot building in downtown Tuscaloosa will feature six offices, a comfortable waiting room, interviewing room, kitchen and play area for the kids. It will provide added space for multi-disciplinary team meetings, as well as family and group sessions.
“Because real estate prices are so high in a college town like Tuscaloosa, we had to look at a lot of properties before we found the perfect location,” Johnson said. “But this building is perfect. It’s more functional in design and will allow us to serve our clients more effectively.”
The staff expects to move into the new facility by the end of the year. Until then, a lot of work still needs to be done, Johnson said.
“We added about 500 square feet,” she said. “The sheetrock, siding, roof, windows and tile will be replaced.”
The TCC uses a community-based, multi-disciplinary team approach involving law enforcement officers, the Department of Human Resources and others. They work together to reach out to child abuse victims and their families. Victims have access to critical services such as forensic interviews, on-site counseling, advocacy services, court preparation, case investigation and review, parent support and community education.
“This is a place where the children feel safe,” Johnson said. “One of the biggest things people don’t understand about child abuse and neglect is that 90 percent of the time it’s someone the child knows and loves, which makes it that much more difficult. One of the most important parts of our mission is to get children and families to a point where they can become happy, healthy and productive members of society.”
Alabama Power Western Division Vice President Mark Crews presented the grant to the TCC at its new facility Aug. 13.
“The Tuscaloosa Children’s Center is critical to our community because they ensure that child abuse victims have a voice,” Crews said. “We recognize the continuing contributions of the Phifer family and are honored to be a part of the center’s expansion through the Alabama Power Foundation grant. We hope that others in the community will join us in helping the center with their relocation.”
Anyone interested in donating money or furnishings or working as a volunteer can call (205) 752-7711 or email [email protected]