On rainy days, Sherry Reinhardt's job is extra challenging. She's the executive director for the Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse, whose Child Advocacy Center is in a 35-year-old trailer with rotten walls that won't support a roof.
"When I come in in the morning and the tarp has blown off, I can see the sky," she said.
Luckily, things are about to change.
Thanks to a donation from Lincoln County, the Child Advocacy Center will soon move into a 4,000-square-foot ranch-style house in Lincolnton. A former group home, the structure needs some renovations, but it has a roof.
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Safety was not the only reason for the move. The new location is more central within Lincoln County, and the structure's appearance is discreet enough to protect the dignity of the families served by the coalition.
There's also room to offer services to more than one family at a time, which can't happen at the current location.
Formed in 1994, the coalition represents public and private entities that advocate for victims of child abuse and support their non-offending family members.
Reinhardt said the coalition provides cohesion among agencies that serve victims of abuse: the Lincoln County Department of Social Services, police and members of the sheriff's department, and school personnel. This unified approach not only reduces cost - an average of $1,000 less per child - but also reduces trauma on the victims, who don't have to relive the abuse through repeated interviews.
Reinhardt said when the Child Advocacy Center opened in 2007, the conviction rate for child abusers in Lincoln County was 30 percent. Of the 600 cases that the center has processed since then, all have resulted in conviction.
"As a grandmother of three, that's gold to me," said Reinhardt, who has been with the coalition for just over a year.
A former teacher, Reinhardt worked with developmentally delayed children in the public schools, where she sometimes saw evidence of abuse.
"Developmentally delayed children are not always born that way," she said.
Working at the Child Advocacy Center, she is able to see a different side of the child abuse problem, and she's also able to do more about it.
Education is a key component in both prevention and conviction of child abuse. Although the Child Advocacy Center is in Lincolnton, it serves families throughout the county, and is seeking increased involvement from the Denver area.
To that end, the coalition will host a fundraiser at Vesuvius Vineyards on Nov. 20. The semi-formal event, called "At Home for the Holidays," includes live music, food, wine and a silent auction.
Tickets are $35 per person, with proceeds going to the center's services and renovations of its new headquarters. For more information, go to www.cac-lincolncounty.org.