“I grew up with that program,” Sears said. “I watched that program from its very infancy.”
When her name came up during the search for an executive director for the Walker County Children’s Advocacy Center, District Attorney Bill Adair said the board felt it was a perfect fit. After several emails and a visit to the newly-opened facility, Sears accepted the job of helping get the center open and serving the children of Walker County.
In taking the reins of the CAC at this early stage, Sears will again have the chance to watch a program grow and benefit the community from the very beginning.
“It’s like I’ve joined the family business,” Sears laughed. In fact, her mother was hired as the director of Daybreak at its inception...in the very building where the CAC is now located.
Sears also helped with the Daybreak program growing up, but joined the staff full time about four years ago. There, she assisted with grant writing, communication and promoting community awareness of the issues the shelter faced in protecting victims of domestic violence.
That experience will be invaluable to the Children’s Advocacy Center now that operations are in full swing. The center has already begun conducting forensic interviews that can be used in court when there are allegations of child abuse or sexual abuse of a child.
“So far it has been incredibly busy,” Sears said as she completed her first week at the center. “We’re already helping kids, we’re already moving forward with serving clients.”
Although Sears and Adair both acknowledge there are many things left to be done in the center, they have been encouraged by community involvement and hope area residents continue to support the work the center is doing.
“Since we’re already seeing kids, it helps to put a face to the issue, and it really drives it home how much this is needed,” Sears said. “It also encourages you to make sure everything is done right from the very beginning.”
She also expressed thanks to the District Attorney’s Office, particularly Adair and Assistant District Attorney Alana Sewell, who have been an integral part of setting the center up.
The center, located on Alabama Avenue in Jasper, across from Jasper Police Department and the Jasper Public Library, is located in a renovated house to provide the homey, comfortable feel that is most conducive to these interviews.
The center does need some small repairs and would also like some cosmetic and convenience items, like an exterior sign identifying the center and privacy fence along one side of the property, but Adair said he is so excited to see the years of hard work finally pay off. After having prosecutions delayed and victims left waiting for an interview spot to open up at other advocacy centers, Adair was proud to see area residents and businesses step up to fulfill this need.
“This has been my No. 1 goal,” Adair said. “We needed this so desperately. We are now able to help these kids in a timely manner.”