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Gateway Center celebrates opening of new facility

By BECKY CRISSMAN
becky.crissman@
cordeledispatch.com

CORDELE — After months of planning and hard work the Gateway Child Advocacy Center celebrated the official opening of their new facility on Thursday.
The center is one of 44 in the State of Georgia and provides services and support to the Cordele Judicial Circuit which consists of Crisp, Dooly, Wilcox and Ben Hill counties. The center serves victims of sexual, physical or emotional abuse, as well as, children who witness crime.
The Gateway center provides forensic interviews multi-disciplnary case reviews, and referrals for therapeutic services for the victim and their non-offending care givers.
“We are so proud of this new facility,” said Gateway Center Executive Director LeLee Phinney. “This provides a child-friendly atmosphere to keep child victims from being further traumatized by the process.”
Phinney said the new facility, located at 401 East 4th Avenue, allows the center to offer more services than before. It includes a new sexual assault exam room which will keep the center from having to send victims to the hospital or out of town.
“The room is designed as a more relaxed, non-intimidating environment for children,” said Phinney. “We have two nurses who work very well with children and make them as comfortable as possible. They interact with the children and do their best to put them at ease.”
Phinney said they also have the ability to conduct interviews with law enforcement without children having to be taken to the police department. Phinney said there is an interview room set up for children and law enforcement can monitor interviews by video in another room.
“We could not have done it without the support we have received from Sheriff Billy Hancock and District Attorney Denise Fachini,” said Phinney. “Sheriff Hancock allowed the inmates to come and do a great deal of the remodeling and painting. Board President Tammera Sears was here with them every one of the 256 hours they worked. The inmates did a great job. Denise Fachini donated a 3D camera.”
Board President Tammera Sears echoed Phinney’s remarks.
“We appreciate the support from the community and our sheriff and district attorney,” she said. “We hope to continue growing and providing additional services to victims in the community.”
“The progress this center is making is amazing,” said District Attorney Denise Fachini. “It is sad that we have to have a facility such as this but important that we do have it. To prosecute these cases we must have everything we can. The Gateway Center works hard to ensure that children are not victimized again by the process. These children are at their most vulnerable. They have seen tragedy most people cannot comprehend. There is not a more angelic group of people than those right here at this center.”
“We have a wonderful, dedicated, amazing staff here at the Gateway Center. None of this would be possible without them; Debbie Bloodworth, Haley Little, Counselor Mandy Mercer and SANE nurses Lori Hobbs and Katie Rumsey,” said Phinney. “They all have big hearts for children. They also put in many of their off hours and personal time to help get this new facility going. Their families pitched in and helped. We are very fortunate to have a such a great group of people.”