By Macenna True
The Weakley/Obion County Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse is gearing up to host its 17th annual Dinner & Auction.
Amber Whitten, the center’s director, is excited about this year’s event. “We are a child advocacy center and we work with those who have been severely physically and/or sexually abused,” she said. “We also work in prevention measures for child abuse. We provide community relationships, training, presentations and the like. We also offer a relative caregiver program. With that, we work with the grandparents, aunts, uncles and such who have custody of these kids and are a part of their family to make sure they are equipped with what they will need in all aspects to have the child in their home.
“In dealing with child abuse cases, we offer victim advocacy service, therapy services and forensic interviewing services 100% free of charge. This is why we have the gala.”
Not only does the center work as advocates for abused children directly, they work hard at prevention. Amber, a social worker by trade, oversees the general operations of the center and gives presentations regularly to community members such as teachers, so others can watch for possible signs of abuse within the home. Through these types of prevention presentations, Weakley County has “reached the tipping point.” According to one of their Facebook posts, this means that 5% of our county are now trained in child abuse prevention. It explains that, according to Malcom Gladwell’s theory, “if more than 5% of a given population changes their behavior, it creates a cultural shift.” Weakley County is on track to making real change in children’s lives, thanks to the center’s efforts. This year, in lieu of a formal gala, they are having a dinner and auction in more of a cocktail style event.
Last year, because of COVID-19, the event was online only. For the first time, participants attended virtually from around the country. It was one of the center’s most successful years, raising about $38,000. Family night themed boxes were auctioned off and sent to the highest bidder’s home. However, this year, the center is going to be able to hold the event in person. Due to our online auction being so successful last year and because the COVID-19 variant is still so prominent in the community, we are taking precautions to help make this event safe and enjoyable for those who attend,” Whitten said. “The majority of our auction will still be online – live on our Facebook – and those who want to can participate from home. There is no cost associated with this aspect of it, unless participants win the item of course. We will have a few items to be auctioned in person at the event for those that come. Perry’s Barbeque out of Paris will be catering and we are excited to see everyone in person again and still offer the majority of the auction virtually.”
Monies raised through this benefit will go directly to the center, which is designed to be a safe space for children to begin the healing process. The child’s needs always remain the center’s focus throughout the process. Whitten said most of these proceeds go to the children involved with them in some way. “When a child completes our therapy program, we have a personalized graduation for them,” she said. “They each get a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss, a personal gift and a party with their very favorite snack or dessert. Snacks are offered at every therapy session as well.
“Also, some of the money might go to purchasing things that are required for these caregivers to have in order to keep the child in their home. These might include items such as a fire extinguisher or a carbon monoxide detector. If they do not have those things, we will provide them so that the child can remain with the family.”
The center receives grants, according to Whitten, but the specifications of these and the amounts they can receive may change so sometimes fundraised monies may even help cover some of the overhead costs like the electric bills. “We also fundraise in case we ever lose a grant, of course, so we can keep doing what we are doing as long as possible,” she said. “But we really try hard to make sure that most of the fundraised money goes to the children directly in some tangible form, though.”
The event will be held at 6 p.m. March 12 at the Martin Public Library. Tickets for those who would like to attend are $50 each or $90 for two. Table sponsorships are $500 or $1,000. Event sponsorship is $250. There will be a dinner, live auction and music. Formal wear is not required this year, so cocktail attire will allow things to be a “little more casual.” For more information or to purchase tickets, call the center at 731-587-0768. If you would like to donate to the Weakley/Obion County Carl Perkins Center for Child Abuse Prevention at any time, you can donate money or items there directly. The center is located at 408 N. Lindell St. in Martin.
By Macenna True