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Monday, March 30, 2015

Star Among the States

Gingerbread House stands out among many

The National Children’s Alliance recently awarded the Gingerbread House as the first recipient of 50 Stars in 50 States award.

This award is part of a new campaign to highlight the work of one child advocacy center in each state.

The Gingerbread House in Shreveport is the only accredited child advocacy center in the community, serving nine parishes in Northwest Louisiana. It serves an average of 54 new child abuse victims every month.

Their mission is to lessen the trauma experienced by child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse, while providing support for the child throughout the investigation, prosecution and treatment phases of cases.

In 2014 alone, 649 children received forensic interviews, multidisciplinary investigations and family advocacy services, while 231 child victims and their non-offending caregivers received counseling services. More than 18,724 children and adults participated in educational outreach sessions.

Jessica Milan Miller, executive director for the Gingerbread House, has served for 12 years.

“We were elated to have won this award! There are close to 800 child advocacy centers in the U.S., so this was such an incredible honor for our center, our team, our community, our state and children’s advocacy centers all over the U.S.,” Miller said. “This award is a reflection of the quality of work our multidisciplinary team puts out each and every day.”

Jesse Hartley, director of program services, CACLA for Louisianachildren. org, was glad to see the award go to the Gingerbread House.

“Jessica Miller and her team are an exceptional center doing exceptional work,” Hartley said.

“They have a very proactive approach and have been trailblazers in the state for human trafficking education and awareness. They continuously look for ways to serve the community and keep children safe.”

“My favorite part of my job is without a doubt when I see a child smile that had only previously looked brokenhearted,” Miller said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but we are committed to walking side by side with these little ones and their families until we can see those beautiful smiles begin to surface once again. Working these cases is extremely hard and emotionally draining, yet our team perseveres by keeping the children at the heart of everything we do.”

“I hope this award will bring awareness, not only to Gingerbread House but to the great work of children’s advocacy centers across the state,” Hartley said. “CACs are not state funded. They rely on donations from the community to continue to provide prevention education and critical services for abused children.”

“Many of the young child victims of abuse that we serve have endured circumstances that would break an adult’s spirit. Yet, their courage, resilience, and hopefulness inspire me daily,” Miller said. “So often, I am reminded of how precious life is and how important it is to protect our loved ones. I hope winning this award will help increase awareness about the Gingerbread House and in turn about the children we serve.”

The Gingerbread House, like the others, relies on donations from locals.

“We are a small but mighty nonprofit,” Miller said. “We have the highest forensic interview caseload out of all 16 child advocacy centers in Louisiana. We’re great stewards of the funds entrusted to us, as reflected by our very conservative budget compared to our caseload. But we’re not able to do it alone. We depend heavily on our community’s support to ensure we can continue to serve child abuse victims free of charge so that no child is ever turned away due to the family’s inability to pay for services.”

No donation is ever too small to make a big impact. “Your $25, combined with another caring individual’s $25 and another and another really make the difference for the innocent children we serve,” Miller said.

“Our primary goal is to continue to serve child abuse victims in such a way that reduces the stress children and families bear,” Miller said.

“Behind every abused child is a family in need. We want to help them navigate through this process so that the child can go from victim to survivor.”

In order to do so, the Gingerbread House must raise funds for their yearly budget of $450,000.

An annual fundraiser will be held for the Gingerbread House at noon Oct. 14 at Sam’s Town Hotel & Casino Shreveport. The guest speaker will be Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1958 and Childhood Incest Survivor.

“It’s easy to think in terms of numbers, even when the numbers reflect scary statistics,” Miller said. “But behind those numbers are beautiful faces that have endured heartbreak like no other. I hope we can stop and picture the children, not be intimidated by the numbers, and then follow up with positive actions on their behalf. Make a donation in honor of your own child or relative. Stand up for a child you suspect is being abused. Be a voice, and lend a helping hand!” –Betsy St. Amant

More Information:

Gingerbread House Website: gingerbreadhousecac.org/

Gingerbread House Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/gingerbreadhousecac

NCA 50 Stars in 50 States: www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/50-stars-50-states

Children’s Advocacy Centers of Louisiana: www.cacla.com/.


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