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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Giving back: A day spent volunteering at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center

By Kathryn Young (Dallas)

On October 9, 2014, Avison Young’s Dallas-based employees were reminded of the importance of giving back to the community.

As part of the firm’s first-ever Global Day of Giving, we proudly partnered with the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center (DCAC), and spent the day assisting the charitable organization’s staff in the outstanding services they provide for child victims of tragic circumstances. Avison Young’s Global Day of Giving involved employees in all of the firm’s 60 offices in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. Each Avison Young office chose a local charity with which to volunteer. The Global Day of Giving will be held annually in October in all Avison Young markets and continually expand as the company opens new offices around the globe.

In Dallas, we chose the DCAC as our 2014 charity based on a recommendation from David Cooke, a Principal based in Avison Young’s Dallas office – and for good reason.

Nearly 3,000 children – a staggering number – walked through DCAC in 2014. These children are victims of extreme cases of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. On average, the victim is a girl, aged nine or ten, who has been sexually abused by someone she knows and trusts. These children arrive by way of Child Protective Services, the Dallas Police Department, one of the 25 other police departments in Dallas County, or a hospital. Sometimes, they are brought straight from school, with no time to pack clothes or items that they would miss terribly, like a special teddy bear.

The DCAC provides these young victims with a warm, child-friendly environment to help buffer their emotional pain. Through loving donations, the children are given toys, stuffed animals, clothes, school supplies, and essential day-to-day items. There are several therapy rooms where children are provided with art, music, play, and even animal-assisted therapy.

One of these therapy rooms has a doll house version of a courtroom, with dolls playing the roles of lawyers, jurors and judge. In a better world, there would be no need for such a toy, but here, there is. While it is sad that such a toy should exist, it can do a great deal to help these innocent children, victims of unthinkable crimes who are too young to understand the court system. This toy is used to help them prepare for court, where they will have to face their perpetrator, a scary prospect for a child to imagine.

We noticed many beautiful quilts, stacked on shelves in the Clothes Closet, hanging on walls as decoration, or laid on sofas in waiting rooms. Erin Bannister, Director of Operations at DCAC, told us that they were all handmade by the Quilters Guild of Dallas. Erin said the guild had donated hundreds of quilts. These quilts gave a warm feeling of comfort, a very nice touch. Each quilt is a loving donation by the women of the Quilters Guild.

We worked in the Clothes Closet, directed by Becky Aguilar, Volunteer Coordinator at the DCAC, organizing donations and loading shelves with containers of children’s clothing, toiletries, diapers, and brand new toys. We were told that the teenage victims’ group needed more donations, and DCAC staff suggested art sets, sketchbooks and drawing supplies. We also worked in the visitation rooms, cleaning tables and chairs, and cleaned all of the children’s toys and placed them back in the dollhouses and toy trunks.

While it is tragic that such a place is necessary, we all felt that our day was well spent, and several of us mentioned that we would like to volunteer our services to the DCAC again.

Our thanks to the unselfish staff and volunteers at the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center for what they do and for allowing us to be a part of the healing process – now, and in the future.

(Kathryn Young is a Client Services Coordinator based in Avison Young’s Dallas office.)

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