BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – Ray of Hope Advocacy Center announced this week plans for the $800,000 Hope Floats Capital Campaign to renovate and relocate to the former Grace Epworth United Methodist Church.
In January, East Cross United Methodist Church donated the 7,400 sq. ft. decommissioned church to Ray of Hope. The former church is located across the street from the non-profit’s current 1600 sq. ft. facility.
“This incredibly generous donation is the right location, the right size and at the right time for our organization,” Hope Floats Campaign Co-Chair Jordan Ihrig said. “Child abuse continues to rise in Oklahoma and the Bartlesville area, requiring more services. Unfortunately Ray of Hope has outgrown its current facility and needs this new space to meet the needs of our community’s most helpless victims.”
Ray of Hope reports a 42 percent increase in agency services compared to this time last year. Washington County has experienced a 62 percent increase in confirmed child abuse since 2012.
“Our agency continues to respond well to child abuse allegations, but even the best response does not prevent child abuse,” Ray of Hope Advocacy Center Executive Director Rhonda Hudson said. “To truly see a reduction in victims of child abuse within our community, we have to provide prevention and treatment services that break the cycle of abuse.”
“Ray of Hope is there for the most innocent victims when no one else is,” Hope Floats Community Chair Bob Fraser said. “They shine a light into the darkness of child abuse giving children hope for healing. In a perfect world, there is no need for agencies like Ray of Hope. Unfortunately, this world is not perfect.”
The Hope Floats Campaign is led by Fraser and his six-year-old grandson, Jack Ihrig, as Hope Float’s Children’s Chair. The duo plans to raise project funds and awareness of the loving, safe relationships that every child deserves.
To date, the Hope Floats Campaign has secured $356,000 toward the $800,000 goal to renovate, furnish and maintain the new facility. Local architect Dan Keleher worked with the board of directors to strategically design the space for current services and necessary growth.
In the larger facility, Ray of Hope plans to provide on-site mental health services including trauma focused counseling for children and families and support groups for non-offending caregivers.
“Unfortunately many of the child abuse victims Ray of Hope sees never receive vital counseling following abuse,” Hope Floats Campaign Co-Chair Marice Wasemiller said. “By never fully processing and healing from the trauma of abuse, children are vulnerable to many long-term health risks and poor outcomes. Having accessible counseling in a familiar, child friendly location will increase follow through of mental health referrals. Also, support groups for non-offending caregivers are essential to help them parent through trauma, practice positive parenting skills, learn how to develop healthy support systems and more.”
Other services possible at the new location include an emergency custody clothing closet for children removed from unsafe environments with nothing more than what they are wearing. A conference center allocates space for community education and child advocacy trainings, meetings, support groups and conferences. The new facility design allows for more functional spaces like separate waiting areas for family privacy and individual offices for staff dealing with private and graphic child abuse information and images.
“We recognize that our goals are ambitious but achievable,” Jordan Ihrig said. “I am proud to call the Bartlesville area home. I feel confident that my fellow citizens will stand up with us to support and advocate for innocent children in our area. If this is their fight for hope, it’s ours too.”
“Ray of Hope needs everyone’s help and support whether it is financial contributions, volunteering or simply sharing the message,” Fraser said. “Once you look into the eyes of a four year old child who has been abused, you understand that you have to help. You become their hope.”
“Kids need to feel safe,” Jack Ihrig said. “Ray of Hope is a happy place that helps kids, and the bigger building will let them help more kids who need it. The people are nice and want all kids, just like me, to be loved.”
Following reports of child abuse, Ray of Hope Advocacy Center currently provides on-site forensic interviews, medical exams, victim advocacy, community education and a coordinated approach among child protection services. Representatives from law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy all work together to conduct joint forensic interviews and make team decisions about the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases. Ray of Hope serves families in Washington, Nowata and Osage Counties as well as southern Kansas.