CULLMAN – The Brooks’ Place annual Christmas Parade of Trees silent auction will take final bids on Dec. 1. Auction winners will be announced at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday evening. The proceeds benefit the Child Advocacy Center of Cullman, better known as Brooks’ Place.
Brooks’ Place is a private, comfortable, child-friendly setting that provides a safe space for child victims of sexual and physical abuse. According to Executive Director of the Cullman Child Advocacy Center, Gail Swafford, Brooks’ Place is a private, nonprofit agency whose purpose is to provide a well-coordinated multi-disciplinary response to allegations of child abuse, beginning with a forensic interview and including specialized trauma-focused counseling for the child victims, non-offending parents/caregivers and siblings.
“Our staff includes mental health professionals trained in trauma-focused therapy, a family advocate who assists the family with obtaining basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and other needs,” she continued.
“Therapists provided over 1,000 counseling sessions last year. The family advocate also assists the family with filing for crime victim’s compensation, accompanies the family to court as well as assisting the family with other needs,” Swafford explained. “There are three staff members who have been specially trained to conduct legally sound forensic interviews of children alleged to have been abused. Interviews are conducted in a non-leading way so that the child tells what happened in his or her own words.”
Last year alone more than 200 interviews were conducted.
“Our main focus is the safety of the child, first and foremost,” said Swafford.
“We are also here for the non-offending parents/caregivers and siblings as well,” Swafford stressed. “This is a family issue. The secrecy of child abuse is a strong dynamic within the families. It is very important that we work with the family as a whole to assist in the healing process. Many times, parents/caregivers are victims themselves. When the abuse is disclosed, it reminds them of their own wounds; many did not have access to counseling when it happened to them.
“That takes a lot of guts for a child to tell someone that they have been abused,” said Swafford. “I often tell them that they are my heroes,” she said.
“I tell them that heroes help other children who are afraid to tell anyone what has happened to them,” Swafford explained. “Because of them some other child won’t have to keep the secret of abuse.”
Families and victims are never charged for services at Brooks’ Place. If a victim needs counseling at any point, even in the future, the service is still available at no charge.
According to Swafford, funding for these services and others is provided through grants, corporate and individual donations and fundraisers, like the Christmas Parade of Trees.
Since 1998, the annual Christmas Parade of Trees has provided additional funding for Brooks’ Place so that they can continue to provide these services and to maintain a place for victims to come where they can feel at ease.
The fundraiser allows people to bid on fully decorated trees and wreaths at a silent auction, which will end on Dec. 1. Trees are located at the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, in downtown Cullman.
This year there are a total of 19 spectacular trees of all sizes, decorated in dazzling holiday themes, including wreaths available to view before bidding ends on Dec. 1. You will be amazed at the attention to detail and sparkling colors of this season’s offerings!
“As a part of the Cullman Chamber for Charities program we are happy to partner with Brooks’ Place of Cullman,” said Chamber President Leah Bolin. “This organization does so much for families and children affected by child sexual abuse. We know any support given to this organization will impact those in immeasurable ways.”
Be sure to drop by the Chamber when you are in town to check out these trees and leave your bid. All benefits go directly to Brooks’ Place.
For more information, contact the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center. Final bids in the silent auction will be taken on Thursday, Dec. 1 from 5-7:30 p.m., and auction winners announced at Chamber's Business After Hours event. The Chamber is located at 301 Second Ave. SW, Cullman.
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