VALDOSTA -- The Children's Advocacy Center opened the doors of its new facility at 200 W. Moore St. Thursday to area citizens interested in taking a peek.

Laurie Anne Bajalia, executive director, said the organization moved to the location on Oct. 26. Since that day, she said everything "has been going great. We are moving right along."

In an earlier interview, Bajalia, who joined the organization in December 1997, said she has known for a while that the Children's Advocacy Center's former downtown location at 204 E. Magnolia St. was not a permanent one. It was simply an inexpensive solution to an immediate need as county leaders rented to center officials for $1 a year.

"The staff and the services have grown tremendously since 1997, and we have been running out of space while desperately searching for funding to move," she said at that time. "The Children's Advocacy Center was in need of a permanent, stable location. The services we offer are, unfortunately, going to always be needed. We need a place that will be ours forever. What we do is too important to risk not having a reliable location."

Bajalia said the new facility offers more privacy for the children served and more space for center officials to do their jobs. She said the protection of confidentiality is stronger and services are offered more effectively.

The formerly residential property was rezoned by the Valdosta City Council on April 8. The following day, Children's Advocacy Officials bought it at a cost of $186,000. They used $78,000, funds raised by center officials and volunteers, as the down payment.

"To date, we have raised about $120,000 towards the mortgage price," Bajalia said. "However, we still need to raise another $70,000 to completely pay for this new facility."

A few days following the initial purchase, Bajalia expressed concern over finding a funding source.

Estimated monthly payments are $900 a month if financed over a 15-year term.

Thursday, Bajalia thanked those businesses and individuals that have already donated time and money to the project.

The Children's Advocacy Center addresses the needs of sexually and physically abused children and their non-offending family members. A neutral, private, non-profit agency, its mission is to minimize the trauma suffered by those who are victimized by child abuse.

Services offered by the Children's Advocacy Center include forensic interviews to assist with the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, individual and family therapy, support groups, court advocacy, multi-discipline team reviews facilitated by center staff, public education, and case management. And they are offered free of charge thanks to various grants, donations, fund-raisers and the United Way of Lowndes County.

"When you think of the Children's Advocacy Center, think of a healthy, happy future for children who have had a bad childhood experience, but who don't have to suffer life-long consequences of that experience," Bajalia said. "This center is where they can be given the tools needed to overcome a traumatic childhood experience and let the healing begin."

To assist the Children's Advocacy Center, please call (229) 245-5369.

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