Cullman Caring for Kids: Child Abuse Awareness Month on hold, child abuse is not

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Photo courtesy of Tonja Grace

CULLMAN, Ala. – As Cullman settles into a quarantine routine, April’s status as Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month is easy to overlook, but the recently countywide (and worldwide, for that matter) spike in quarantine-fueled cases of domestic violence means that awareness is more important than ever, right now.
 

Cullman Caring for Kids (CCK) Assistant Director Nancy Bryant, who heads up the agency’s Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month activities, told The Tribune, “I do want people to know we’re sitting on ‘go.’ We were ready for April; Tonja (Grace) and I worked very, very hard and we had things ready; of course, it’s on hold now. But we are going to be putting up bows through the town, as soon as we get the opportunity.

“What we’re going to do is, hopefully when all this is over, then we’re going to do a Child Abuse Awareness Month, whatever month it’s going to be. We’re going to do the things that we already had planned, because we don’t want anyone to ever forget that child abuse is happening every day.

“Everyone needs to open their eyes and their ears, and they need to be listening for these children because, right now, as we all know, the domestic violence rates are higher. There’s a lot of things happening that we don’t even want to think about, but we have to. 

“As much as possible, we all need to be listening for our neighbor kids and know the signs. If you have your neighbor kids trying to eat out of your garbage cans, if you hear screaming, if you see bruises, if you suspect some child is being abused, then everyone should call DHR. If we feel it, if we see it, we need to call and report that, because child abuse does not stop.”

Child abuse claimed 24 lives in Alabama during 2019. CCK’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program’s 31 current volunteers were actively working 100 Cullman County cases involving abused or neglected children at the time of the recent COVID-19 shutdown, and CASA was in the process of training eight new advocates.

CCK food pantry needs help

Tuesday was a slow day for the CCK food bank, the first one in two weeks. Bryant reported that the agency saw 88 families last Friday, and served a total of 635 families in March, 131 of which were new clients. The increase is taking its toll.

On Monday, CCK Director Javon Daniel and staffer Tonya Grace posted photos of bare shelves in the food pantry, and Bryant reported on Tuesday that supplies are “extremely low.”

While CCK accepts a wide variety of donations, the pantry’s greatest needs right now include:

  • Peanut butter

  • Jelly

  • Canned goods

 

While those might be the most crucial shortages, Bryant said, “We just need a little bit of everything, because kids are out of school and people are home from work. We just need food. Pastas would be great, cereal is great, mac and cheese is always great. We need any kind of protein that people can give. Peanut butter is always great, because you can make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”

If you come to get food from the CCK pantry

CCK’s food pantry will be open Wednesday morning, but will be closed Friday in observance of Good Friday. Food distribution will resume next Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

If you visit CCK to get groceries from the food pantry, you will pull your car outside the building and pantry staff will bring food bags out to the curb. Once staffers return to the building, you will then be able to get the bags and take them with you. It is imperative that you remain in your vehicle until the bags have been brought outside. Daniel emphasized that staff and volunteers cannot hand off bags face to face or bring bags out if a person is standing outside their car.

Daniel said, “We cannot, for the safety of the staff and the people coming to the food bank, we cannot have them getting out of their cars while we are outside. They need to stay in their cars until they’re instructed to come out and load their food.”

Where to donate

Coca-Cola is coordinating a United Way of Cullman County (UWCC) food drive this week, April 6-10, at area stores. Collection sites for this drive include:

  • Warehouse Discount Groceries on Highway 157 and at Town Square in Cullman

  • Hoppers Family Markets in Fairview

  • Dollar General Market in Hanceville

 

On social media, UWCC encouraged, “While doing your grocery shopping, pick up some items to help support local food pantries.”  

Additionally, UWCC will sponsor a one day food drive on Thursday, April 9 at Cullman Middle School, 800 Second Ave. SE, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Bryant said that food donations can also be dropped off at the CCK office, 402 Arnold St. NE, on weekday mornings, though donors will not be able to bring items inside the building. Items should be dropped off at the curb. Staff on duty can give receipts if requested.

Bryant reported that the Food Bank of North Alabama, while it has modified its pickup procedures for organizations like CCK coming to its warehouse, still has sufficient supplies of food. CCK can purchase pallets of food for 14 cents per pound, so monetary donations are also needed and very welcome.

Bryant concluded, “I do want to brag on my staff, because they’re here every time the doors are open for us to help this community, and I just think they’re awesome people. And we’ve had wonderful volunteers that have came and helped us every day. We’ve had some great volunteers: Desperation Church and Walmart Distribution has been sending people for us, and United Way’s been helping us, and it’s all working out. We’re serving a lot of families, helping a lot of families and children not be hungry.

“We can’t stand the thought of someone being hungry, so that’s why we are here, willing to be on the front line in a terrible time for us.

“We just need people’s prayers and monetary donations, and we need people to not forget about Cullman Caring for Kids, because we need support.”

Grace added a note of appreciation for Bryant, who has put in many hours coordinating food distribution.

Said Grace, “I can’t tell you how blessed Cullman Caring For Kids is, having her to guide us through these tough times, and she has done not only a phenomenal job as a boss, but as my friend as well. Pray for us, and God bless this community.”

For more information or to get involved, including making a no-contact online contribution, visit www.facebook.com/CullmanCaringForKids/ or www.cullmancaringforkids.co or call 256-739-1111.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com