A group dedicated to assisting children and families impacted by abuse has secured a site for its new facility at Red Deer College.
The provincial government has enabled the college to allocate about 1.07 acres of land for the stand-alone centre of excellence in support of child advocacy services and education.
The centre will be located in the southwest corner of the campus, near the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.
“We think it’s the absolute best location that provides an atmosphere and environment where people can feel safe and at rest as they go through some very difficult times,” said Red Deer College president Joel Ward at the announcement Friday.
The Central Alberta Child Advocacy Centre was given a 50-year lease of land.
“It’s still our land. We don’t sell land, but we will look at around the 30-year mark to extend that lease. I can’t imagine that we’d ever ask them to leave. I don’t see that need as going away,” Ward said.
The college has a similar arrangement with CollegeSide seniors facilities located on the campus.
Terry Loewen, board chair with the Central Alberta Advocacy Centre, said there isn’t room to jam any more desks into the group’s downtown location. The new facility will be 10,000 square feet.
“We’re down there operating right now in 1,400 square feet. We’re working in a very small place. In one year, we’ve done north of 320 cases. We’ve interviewed over 255 children,” Loewen said.
“We’re in a crisis with our children in our community, and we’ve got to get this thing up and going.”
He said as much as 85 per cent of child abuse is not reported, so the advocacy centre is just scratching the surface and he hopes construction of the $8-million facility will start in April or May.
So far, a little more than $1 million has been raised. If the centre’s Dream Home Lottery is a sellout, it will bring in $1.5 million. Private fundraising efforts are also underway.
“We’re going to get this thing done. We’ve come a long way in a short time, and I couldn’t be prouder of my community stepping up for such a dark, dark subject,” Loewen said.
Ward said students studying education, early childhood learning, sociology and justice will benefit from the centre’s presence on campus.
“We have an opportunity not only to support what the child advocacy centre is doing, but provide great learning opportunities for students who go into that field and make a difference as well. It all fits together beautifully, and it’s going to make a significant difference,” Ward said.