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Law enforcement, leaders in the community and volunteers who want to make a difference in childrenâ€™s lives came together Tuesday night to support the West Texas Childrenâ€™s Advocacy Center (WTCAC) during their annual Child Abuse Awareness Banquet held at the Nolan County Coliseum Annex.
The original speaker was unable to attend at the last minute, but Assistant District Attorney Barrett Thomas and WTCAC Executive Director Teresa Zarate filled in to talk to those in attendance about the difference WTCAC makes in the community and express appreciation for community support.
Thomas, who has had experience prosecuting cases which involved child abuse, said without organizations such as WTCAC, prosecutors would have difficulty obtaining evidence that would convict child abusers.
Zarate discussed how WTCAC served the community by bringing law enforcement, counselors, forensic interviewers and others together to work as a team in order to convict child abusers and help victims of child abuse cope.
WTCAC serves five counties â€“ Nolan, Fisher, Scurry, Mitchell, and Borden. In addition to working with law enforcement on child abuse cases, they help counsel victims or refer them to the appropriate mental health specialists, give presentations to children in schools and refer victims for appropriate medical treatment.
Zarate also pointed out a memorial they had set up in the Annex. It was a group of small, childrenâ€™s chairs with eight candles representing the eight children who have died as a result of child abuse in our area in the last five years.
Chief of Police Brian Frieda presented WTCAC with an Xbox that the Sweetwater Police Department was awarded possession of as a result of an arrest and confiscation. He said he hoped this would provide family members of victims and victims themselves some sort of distraction or entertainment while they were waiting at the Childrenâ€™s Advocacy Center.
Frieda said he was grateful that Sweetwater and Nolan County law enforcement had the WTCAC to help them with child abuse cases and to protect victims from being further traumatized from having to go through multiple interviews. â€śWe are truly blessed to have them in our community.â€ť
Local pastor Jeramy Thompson gave the invocation at the beginning of the banquet, praying for mothers and fathers to be the kind of parents their children need them to be. He also talked about how parents sometimes forget that a newborn is like a blank canvass and whatever parents put into that child is what they will get in return.
He quoted the Bible verse found in Proverbs 22:6, â€śTrain up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.â€ť
At the conclusion of the banquet, Miss Snake Charmer Kyndra Vaught entertained the crowd with a few songs. The Sweetwater Municipal Band also played during the banquet. WTCAC staff then presented plaques to their donors and recognized their volunteers.