By CHRIS AGEE
Board members and supporters of the Children's Alliance Center for Palo Pinto County gathered Thursday afternoon for an open house and ribbon cutting at the center's new location.
The board, which includes local leaders in a variety of disciplines, is designed to deal with the entire spectrum of child abuse.
A building in the 200 block of S.E. 3rd Avenue was donated to serve as the center's headquarters and the open house allowed members of the community to track its progress.
"We're very excited and hoping to increase awareness," said Board Secretary Leann Johnson. "We want to get the word out that we're making great strides."
She explained the board expects to begin taking cases in less than a year. In the meantime, the center will continue meeting state requirements and complete work on the building.
District Attorney and Board President Mike Burns explained several local merchants were present during the open house to sell gift certificates for specific needs of the center. Additionally, a Walmart representative announced the retailer's donation of a large amount of toys.
Burns said the center's progress is outpacing projections, explaining the board has received sufficient donations to qualify for a state match.
"We're way ahead of schedule," he said. "We had no facility and no idea about a facility until God smiled on us and we got a facility. [The open house] is to let the community know we're here."
He said the response from individuals and businesses in the community has been incredible.
"Everybody is coming forward," he said, explaining the center welcomes donations of all sizes. "I am just astounded at the response of members of the community."
A Center for Public Policy Priorities report shows Palo Pinto County saw a child abuse case filed about once every three days in 2011. The total number of cases filed that year was 114 in a county with a child population of 7,031.