Heart of Shiawassee

Ellen Lynch, executive director of the Voices for Children Advocacy Center in Owosso, hugs employees moments after a surprise announcement Friday that the center was this year's recipient of the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce's Heart of Shiawassee Award.

OWOSSO — Ellen Lynch, executive director of the Voices for Children Advocacy Center, shed tears when she realized the center was receiving the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce’s annual Heart of Shiawassee Award.

At 3 p.m. Friday, a large group from the Chamber and the Owosso Police Department walked into the Advocacy Center and surprised Lynch with the award announcement and a balloon bouquet. The award will be presented officially at the chamber’s annual dinner next month.

“The selection committee chose your organization for the life-changing, behind-the-scenes work you do for children in Shiawassee County,” said Craig Bishop, community president of award sponsor Chemical Bank. “On behalf of the Chamber and Chemical Bank, congratulations.”

“We’re absolutely healing the kids and you guys (her employees) work so hard and I’m so happy,” Lynch said, giving several employees a hug. “It’s been a hard week. Thank you for this.”

The Heart of Shiawassee Award recognizes a local nonprofit organization for its strenuous roles, and countless hours of dedication and service. Without the organization’s good works in educating, advocating, or offering long-term solutions, many people would not be able to thrive.

The award recipient is a chamber member and religious, educational or charitable organization that exhibits passion for serving the residents of Shiawassee County.

The Advocacy Center’s mission is to eliminate child abuse and neglect through advocacy, education and collaboration in the community. The nonprofit agency is governed by a volunteer board of directors representing health and human services, court, school and law enforcement agencies as well as members from the general public.

Such programs as Infant and Child Prevention Education, Darkness 2 Light, Personal Safety Awareness and support groups are available to the entire community.

The Advocacy Center opened in 2004 through a collaboration with the Shiawassee-Owosso Kiwanis Club. In 2008, the center became accredited and is now recognized by the National Children’s Alliance as it meets strict operational guidelines by providing a multi-disciplinary approach to forensic interviewing.

Someone who nominated the center for the award described the scope of its work in a letter:

“Children are brought to (center) where a legally sound, child-centered and unbiased forensic interview is conducted for these alleged victims of abuse. A forensic interview is intended to reduce the re-victimization of these children to eliminate the potential of having to tell and retell their story.

“When a forensic interview is conducted, all involved parties come to the (center) and observe the interview via closed circuit television. A burned copy of the interview is provided to law enforcement to begin their investigation.

“Once the interview is complete,” the nominator continued, “the child and their family/caregiver are provided services from our family/victim advocate by means of making sure they receive the services needed, transportation assistance, case updates and court accompaniment.”

“They are provided counseling services with a crisis counselor or child and family counselor to begin the healing process from the trauma of the abuse. This includes trauma focused counseling, court preparation, reading a victims statement in court hearings and a send off party when the child completes the therapy process.

“All services provided by (the center) are at no cost to the victims, their families/caregivers, or the other agencies involved,” the nominator stated. “The (center) is passionate about serving these child victims of abuse in Shiawassee County to begin their journey of hope and healing.”

The Voices for Children Advocacy Center will be formally honored at the Shiawassee Regional Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, set for Feb. 6 at D’Mar Banquet & Conference Center in Owosso Township.

For tickets, contact the Chamber at (989) 723-5149.

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