About a year ago, NorthWest Arkansas Community College announced it would be the site for the Southern Region National Child Protection Training Center. The campaign goal for that reality was set at $3 million.
Melba Shewmaker and family announced Monday (Oct. 22) a $1.3 million gift toward the renovation and furnishing of the center, for which Dr. Becky Paneitz, NWACC President, says will likely bear the giver’s name. A humble, teary eyed Shewmaker said she gave the money because it can make a difference in so many lives through the NCPTC.
Also taking part in Monday’s press conference were three student council officers from First Lutheran School in Fort Smith who recently felt compelled to raise money for the center. Katie Davis, a sixth grader at First Lutheran, said she heard her mother talking about the center and how it would help train professionals who work to eradicate child abuse which affects one in three girls and one in six boys in the United States.
“We wanted to step up for those kids who need it because we have been so blessed to have parents who love and support us. I took the idea to our student council and for one month our chapel offerings were taken for this cause. We raised $401.61 for the center,” Davis said.
John Freeny of First Lutheran said, “Helping those in need is just something we enjoy doing because it’s what God expects.”
For Maddie Ross, the gift was about doing the right thing to help kids who can’t help themselves.
“We hope others will also feel led to give whatever they can, because it’s a really good feeling to know you have helped.” Ross said.
Amy Benincosa, development director at NCPTC, also announced five other recent gifts that put the center’s total fundraising at $2.2 million or 75% of the needed amount in just under one year. Other donations include:
• $100,000 Walton Family Foundation
• $25,000 Mel and Vicki Redman
• $30,000 Bob and Marilyn Bogle
• $25,000 John and Emily Douglas
• $25,000 Johnelle Hunt
All of the funds go toward transforming the former oncology building owned by the NWACC Foundation into a state-of-the-art training facility that will help train health care and enforcement professionals on how to better deal with child abuse cases. The center will serve a 16-state region.
Child abuse is a reality for one in three girls and one in six boys in this country affecting more than 1 million children annually.
Victor Vieth, director for the National Child Protection Training Center, attended Monday’s press conference.
“One of my first cases of child abuse prosecution involved a little girl who was staying over at friend’s house one night. The friend’s mom walking down the hall overheard this little girl’s prayer which was simply ‘Dear Jesus please don’t let dad have sex with me on my birthday,'"
Vieth said in the selfless prayer, she didn’t ask for much, not for God to stop the abuse altogether, no cakes or gifts just that she be able to mark the passing of another year without the sights, sounds and smell of father who was anything but.
He went on to say none of these children ask for much.
“They just want us to see them, hear them and to help them," he said.
Vieth says the NCPTC on the NWACC campus is the answer to prayer because it will train teachers to recognize abuse, equip law enforcement to better prosecute abuse and train social therapists to treat abuse. He said a key reason NWACC was chosen to house the regional center is because of the progressive attitude and willingness for local citizens to put their money to good work back into the local community.
NWACC has been teaching NCPTC coursework for the past two years and some 500 people have already received training according to Stephanie Smith, director for the regional facility.
Some $800,000 is still needed to reach to the total goal before construction of the renovation can begin. The extensive renovation is expected to take about eight months to complete, according to the release.