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Monday, June 24, 2024

Children’s Trust of Alachua County signifies Child Abuse Prevention month

Trust kicks off month with community event

<p>Pinwheels displayed at Child Advocacy Center on Saturday, April 6, 2024.</p>

Pinwheels displayed at Child Advocacy Center on Saturday, April 6, 2024.

Gainesville residents driving down Northwest 25th Place can see metallic blue and silver pinwheels for April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month as they pass the new Children’s Trust of Alachua County building.

On April 5, staff members of Children’s Trust worked together to place the shining pinwheels in the grass along the sidewalk to raise awareness for child abuse to kick off Child Abuse Prevention month. 

The organization, in collaboration with the Prevent Child Abuse America’s campaign, created a pinwheel garden to raise awareness to child abuse in the community. The metallic pinwheels represent how all children deserve a bright future, a campaign that originated in 2008.

Children’s Trust of Alachua County helps fund and organize services in Alachua County aimed to help families and children succeed. The trust has three main priorities to which it directs funding: maternal and children’s healthcare, mentorship and childcare and community safety

Between October 2022 and September 2023, the trust is estimated to have helped over 23,000 children in Alachua County. 

Tina Certain, a statutory member of Children’s Trust board and an Alachua County School Board member, works to help organizations benefiting children with funding and guidance. 

“The purpose of the trust is to fund initiatives for children 0 to 18 and live in Alachua County,” she said. “They can be health, education related, juvenile, such as diversionary programs to keep children out of the criminal justice system.”

Children’s health and safety means a lot to Certain, and she worked on the committee to pass the voter initiative that created the trust.

The executive director, Marsha Kiner, has been working for the trust for a year and a half. She has always had a passion for developing youth potential inside and outside of schools. As a Gainesville native and UF journalism alumna, Kiner spent her teenage years and professional career working with and advocating for children.

“The opportunity came for me to come back to my hometown to make a difference in the community that I feel gave me my values, helped me to see the world and made me a compassionate and open-minded person who believed in diversity and inclusion,” Kiner said. 

Kiner hopes the April 5 event reminds the community everyone plays an important role in preventing child abuse in the community. 

“We can make a difference,” she said. “If we pay attention to signs, if we realize that all of us don’t have all of the same beginnings in life, and as that adage, if you see something, say something.” 

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Elizabeth Cayson, the community engagement manager, helps the trust partner with community organizations and participate in community outreach. Working in advocacy for over 30 years, Cayson strongly believes in the power of community work to improve the lives of children and families. 

“I believe strongly in the work that Children’s Trust is doing because we want to ensure that all children have access to programs that help them thrive,” she said. “It’s really important that families know about the different programs that are available.”

To Cayson, the pinwheel event serves as a reminder to the community child abuse and family struggles happen within the Alachua County community, and outreach services exist to aid local families. 

“I feel that it’s important that not just today, but every day we remember that families are struggling. If they need help, there are resources out there for them to get the services that they need,” she said. 

On April 20 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Children’s Trust of Alachua County and the Alachua County Child Abuse Prevention Task Force will host Celebrate the Child at Albert Ray Massey Park with games, food and face-painting to connect with the community during this important month.

Contact Megan Howard at Follow her on X @meganmhxward.

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Megan Howard

Megan Howard is a second-year journalism major and the K-12 Education reporter for The Alligator. When she's not writing, you can find her rewatching the Eras Tour movie or reading The Hunger Games series.

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