By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County

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I have been reflecting on “community” a lot recently and really trying to name what it is to me.

This could be as a result of the recent tragedy in Ferguson. It could be as a result of my son growing older and wanting him to find his place, where he belongs. It could be as a result of my moving to a new community last year and trying to build a new place of belonging for myself.

It is a little of all those things. It is also because of building new friendships with the wonderful family that is the United Way of Jackson County. Because of these friendships I have been tuned in to the United Way slogan “Live United!” Their marketing person is genius! And yes, I did ask if I could use their slogan in this writing. The very kind Executive Director at United Way enthusiastically agreed to let me borrow it!

Who would not want to Live United?

I think about the families and young people that are served by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County. I think about the staff that serves them. A staff that tries to model for these families we serve to show them how to care for the children that have been entrusted to them.

I was humbled last week. My son’s school has a shoebox Christmas gift project every year where children bring gifts in, all wrapped in shoe boxes to take to St. Vincent De Paul to be passed out to families in need. I watched as kids filed in to the kindergarten classroom, each proudly grasping their gift. Every single child participated. My son was so proud to bring in his gift to share. I watched again today as each child brought in their canned foods to give to the needy.

It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling to know that my child is surrounded by a community that reaches out to those in need.

I can tell you countless stories of how Jackson County “Lives United” and why that is important to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County. One that immediately comes to mind is a young man that gave us his lunch money to kick off our Cherish a Child Luncheon in 2013. It was not a huge donation but that seed provided inspiration for the Center to meet its fundraising goal. It was not a direct ask. He happened to be waiting on our Development Director at a local business the day of the luncheon.

If you ask him he will tell you he did it to give back. He had a family member come through the Center and was grateful for the work that was done on behalf of that child.

There was the young woman who did her Bat Mitzvah project and chose to do a project that would benefit the children served by the Center.

There is the stranger in Fred Meyer who saw a woman buying Christmas presents for the Center to give to children we serve whose families are having a tough year. She handed over money for her to buy more gifts. These stories are not unique here.

I can take it even one step further. Living United is exemplified by the agencies that have partnered with the Children’s Advocacy Center this year to provide opportunities for the children we serve and their families. Non-profit agencies working together for the good of the families we serve together.

They all came together with us to become involved in an auxiliary program of our therapy department called Building Bridges. Some of the community partners included United Way; the Touvelle Foundation; The Studio at Living Opportunities; Daniel Murphy of Integrity of Life Services; the Craterian Theater; professional dance teachers Jenna Trotter and Becky Hale; Rogue Valley Farm to School; Hanley Farm; Warhorse Alliance; the Oregon Conservatory of Performing Arts; and the Ashland Food Co-op. We are working with the Rose Circle in Ashland to provide mentoring circles to our young clients here at our Center. We are partnering with the YMCA to provide a rock climbing therapy group facilitated by one of our therapists.

We are doing these collaborative efforts to expose the children we serve and their families to services and activities that exist in the valley that are available to them. We are all modeling working together so that the families receive the very best services from this community.

I am so proud to live in a place that values our children. I am so proud to be a part of a community that truly understands “Living United”.

This has been a great year here at the Children’s Advocacy Center. Everyone here knows that it is because of the support received from the community. We are thankful to you all.

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