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United Way hosts kickoff luncheon

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

The Chilton County United Way hosted a luncheon on Aug. 29 to kick off its 2019 campaign.

Representatives from several different agencies that are supported by Chilton County United Way were on hand to speak on how their various organizations are aided by the funds received.

Jana Zuelzke, the executive director of Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, was the main speaker.

“I want to talk to you about the unique and specialized way we help children in this community,” she said. “We help children who have been victims of sexual abuse, severe physical abuse and also children who have witnessed crimes. I like to say that at Butterfly Bridge we are in the business of giving children their childhoods back. That’s what we want to do.

“Children come through our doors, and they are in some of the darkest times that they have ever experienced. If there is only one place where they are feeling love, care and support, it is going to be at Butterfly Bridge. We want to make sure that happens for every child and adolescent who comes through our doors.

“I meet kids from about 3 years old all the way up to about 17 years old every single week,” she said. “They are truly heroes and braver than most adults I know. Let me tell you why. They are brave because something really horrible has been happening to them, and it’s extremely difficult for them to talk about. Ninety percent of the time the child or adolescent knows who their abuser is. It is someone in their family. It could be their mom, their dad, their uncle, their favorite cousin. Imagine how hard it is for them to have the courage and bravery to talk about those things. When they come through our door, they have made some kind of outcry to someone that something has happened.”

Zuelzke also spoke on how funds received from Chilton County United Way aid the center.

“We appreciate the support of the United Way,” she said. “Specifically, the United Way supports our forensic interviewing process. There is nothing that we offer these children or families that they have to pay for; it’s all free.

“I can’t thank the United Way enough. Without the funds we receive every year, it would be hard to do what we do every day and keep our doors open. This community has been pretty awesome. We are really, really proud of this community and how we all partner together to work for the kids in this community.

“Our role is to have a neutral place where those children can come and be interviewed by specially trained professionals about what has happened to them. A long time ago before there were child advocacy centers like Butterfly Bridge, children would have to go from place to place talking to many different professionals about a very traumatizing thing. Now, children have a safe, friendly, neutral and home-like environment to come to, and they are able to talk to people who have very specialized training.”

After Zuelzke’s speech, Chilton County Probate Judge Bobby Martin, who is the campaign chairman for the Chilton County United Way, spoke on the goals the organization has.

“The motto for the United Way is ‘making a difference together,’” he said. “Which is a great motto. Today, sitting back there and listening to every agency that stood up today, they said we helped. Every one of them. That’s pretty fascinating to me. It’s awesome to know that our money goes to agencies that can say we help.”

Martin also revealed the monetary goal Chilton County United Way will set as its target in 2019.

“Our goal last year was $175,000,” he said. “We haven’t quite reached it yet. We are still in the process of taking in monies for it. Our goal next year, we are going to stay at $175,000. We have the faith we can raise that. We would like to raise (even more, because if we did all you agencies would get more money. We will have the faith we will get there.

“We can’t do that by ourselves. We have a great board that does what they need to do. But, if we do not have your help, and your support, we are not going to reach $175,000. If you have a free minute and want to volunteer, contact the United Way. We will take you and use your help.”

For more information on Chilton County United Way, call (205) 755-5875 or visit unitedway.org/local/united-states/alabama/chilton-county-united-way or the organization’s Facebook page.