Child Advocacy Center prepares for annual box lunch fundraiser

Published 7:30 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022

The Covington County Child Advocacy Center is once again holding its Spring Box Lunch to the community for help with abused children.

The event was first introduced locally in November 2012.

“Lesa Rathel, who was appointed Director of Covington County DHR in 2011, partnered with Kathy Smyth, former executive director of Safe Harbor. They brought the box lunch sale to Covington County. It was a fundraiser to raise money to provide forensic interviews for children who were victims of abuse in Covington County. This was three years prior to the Covington County Child Advocacy Center being founded. Safe Harbor partnered with DHR to provide interviews for children before we launched the CCCAC. Since that time, we now have two Box Lunch events each year,” CCCAC Executive Director Mindy Barton said.

The Peer Helper Club of Pleasant Home School works to fill boxes from a previous Spring Box Lunch fundraiser.

The deadline to order is Sunday, Feb. 20. Order forms can be found on Facebook through CCCAC or by calling the office at 334-222-1881.

This year’s Spring Box Lunch is scheduled for Wednesday, March 2 at Southside Baptist Church. The cost is $10.00 per box, and donations are also welcome. For those unable to pick up at the church, delivery will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Barton said that donations are usually given for more than $10 for a box.

The $10 box includes “Chicken Shack” child salad on a bed of romaine lettuce, a fresh fruit bowl, pickles, a yeast roll, dessert, napkin, serving utensils, minty toothpick, chips, and a chocolate mint. All of these are packaged with tissue paper with a note about upcoming opportunities to support the Covington County Child Advocacy Center.

Lowe Dillard with Southside Baptist Church prepares a box from a previous Spring Box Lunch fundraiser.

“Money that is raised from the Box Lunch is used for a variety of necessary expenses at the Covington County Child Advocacy Center. Those include phone, Internet, copier services, medical supplies, counseling supplies, and forensic interview supplies. All services provided at the CCCAC are free to children and non-offending family members. Whether it is a medical exam, forensic interview, counseling, court preparation for children, or multi-disciplinary case review, all services are at no cost to the families we serve.”

In 2021, the Covington County DHR investigated allegations of abuse and neglect of 619 children in the local community, according to Barton.

“Sometimes the public is aware of a few cases as those making the news. However, there are hundreds of children no one is made aware of that the front lines battle every day. It is extremely important the public is educated on this and is encouraged to be a protector by reporting concerns. This can be done by calling the Covington County Department of Human Resources at 334-427-7900.”

Board Chairman Walt Merrell added that child abuse and especially child sex abuse has been ‘dealt with’ by being swept under the family’s rug for generations.

“Only in the last 10 years or so has society been willing to lift the rug and see what lies beneath. Our efforts at the CCCAC to raise awareness about child abuse are meant to be a beacon of hope for those children who are suffering. They need to know that we won’t sweep them under the rug and that we will not only help them, but we will fight for them,” Merrell said.

In order to put the box lunches together, it takes two days.

Each box is assembled with tender loving care and contains a high-quality lunch for one to enjoy.

“Southside Baptist Church has always been gracious enough to host our Box Lunch. Their volunteer group has been with us from the very beginning. The Covington County District Attorney’s Office and the Covington County Department of Human Resources have staff that volunteer both days. On day one, we have about 12 people and service groups also come to help put together the boxes, tissue paper, ribbon, and chips. On day two, we have about 20 drivers who volunteer to deliver the lunches all over Covington County. Altogether, we have anywhere between 50 to 75 volunteers,” Barton said.

“For me, each box that is prepared has always represented a child that we are serving at the CAC. You can see that we take great care in assembling the boxes and making sure they are filled with the highest quality lunch. Each is wrapped like a special gift for our customers just as our children are a gift to us and should be cared for as such. Always remember that by supporting this fundraiser, either through volunteering or purchasing a box, you are doing much more than preparing or buying a lunch,” Rathel said.

District Attorney Merrell added that prior to the CAC coming to Covington County, kids were being sent to Dothan or Montgomery to get the help they needed.

“Now, kids get the forensic interviews, medical treatment, counseling, and therapy they need all in their hometown. We provide all of those services almost entirely with money we raise through these box lunches and the CAC Rodeo. These fundraisers are vital to our ability to provide these services for the least of these,” Merrell said.

Barton said this fundraiser could not be possible without support from the community. “Southside Baptist Church offers their support each year as well as the many volunteers who show up willing to work. We also have the multi-disciplinary partners who volunteer and deliver and thank Piggly Wiggly for allowing us to use their refrigerated coolers.”

In addition to the Spring Box Lunch, the Covington County Child Advocacy Center is also selling Blue Ribbon T-shirts until March 4. April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

“National Child Abuse Prevention Month recognizes the importance of families and communities working together to strengthen families to prevent child abuse and neglect.” Please look for upcoming information about Covington County’s Blue Ribbon Ceremony.  The CCCAC would like to encourage to you purchase a t-shirt and wear them during the month of April. You can find the order forms on Facebook or contact the CCCAC and we will fax or email you one,” Barton said.

For more information call the Covington County Child Advocacy Center at 334-222-1881 or email Melinda Barton at covctychildadvocacycenter@gmail.com.