LOCKPORT – For 17 years, Niagara County law enforcers and counselors have been hoping for a second location for the Child Advocacy Center, where victims of sexual and physical abuse are counseled and interviewed.
Thursday, that became a reality, as the ribbon was cut for the center’s new Lockport satellite in the YWCA of Niagara on Cottage Street.
“It’s ironic that we’re here so close to Christmas, because this is a room full of angels,” Sheriff James R. Voutour said. “It really is a shame we have to have a place like the Child Advocacy Center, but in our world today, we have to.”
The center is a place where victims can be interviewed in child-friendly surroundings so that response is coordinated and the number of times the children have to repeat their stories is reduced.
Ann Marie Tucker, vice president of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the original executive director of the center, said that since its founding in 1995, about 4,000 children have been assisted there. Almost 40 percent of them were under the age of 7, and 75 percent were under 13.
The main Child Advocacy Center is hosted by Memorial on its Niagara Falls campus.
Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma, head of the Special Victims Unit at the District Attorney’s Office, said she and her colleagues see “the worst of the worst. It’s amazing what happens in little old Niagara County. It’s amazing the evil that is among us.”
Voutour said, “The ability for us to put bad guys and bad girls in jail is so much greater because of the Child Advocacy Center.”
Kathleen Granchelli, YWCA executive director, said the two main architects of the project were Laura Kelemen, the center’s executive director, and Mary Brennan-Taylor, YWCA vice president of programs.
“This project really is tangible proof of what can happen when agencies join hands,” Brennan-Taylor said.
“It really was the vision and commitment from the YWCA that brought this project to fruition,” Kelemen said.
That, and donations to pay the $18,500 cost of remodeling a room in the YWCA’s basement. Although many service clubs and individuals kicked in, the largest donors were Michael and Billie Jo Radecke, the son and daughter-in-law of former Lockport Mayor Joan Radecke, who also attended Thursday’s ceremony.
“It’s exciting. I’m proud to be from this community,” said Michael Radecke, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in Williamsville.
The Radeckes are close friends of Brennan-Taylor. “When she told us of the need and the importance, we embraced it,” Billie Jo Radecke said. Their daughter Wellsley is studying for her master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, so the family was interested in bolstering a counseling program in Lockport.
“Michael Radecke and his family stepped up to the plate. They gave us the money to get things startled,” Brennan-Taylor said.
“This facility just demonstrates what the YWCA does for us,” Assemblywoman Jane Corwin said.