An open house is taking place on Sept. 21 at the Christmas Box House.
Twenty-two years ago a support system for children facing abuse in Utah was created with the founding of a Christmas Box House by author Richard Paul Evans. The 1996 founding of the first Christmas Box House in Moab was the beginning of a larger outreach to the greater state of Utah.
“The Moab facility was the first facility we opened and it helped us understand how to create our much larger facilities in Ogden and Salt Lake City,” Evans said. “We offer support to the center as it adjusts to meet the needs of your community.”
Now also known as the Grand County Family Support Center (FSC), the organization was able to remodel its facilities in recent months to better serve the community through grants provided by The Synergy Company, the Department of Workforce Services Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant and the Mayflower Foundation.
“The Synergy Company has given us two grants,” said Sherilyn Sowell, the FSC administrative director. “With their assistance we’ve been able to get some extremely needed things for the center as well as modernize the kids’ rooms. We were able to get some things we normally wouldn’t be able to get for the center and we’re going to have an open house to show that off.”
The FSC contracts with the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS).
“We get shelter children and we get children who have been taken into the state’s custody usually and now they’ll be able to have nicer rooms to stay in,” Sowell said.
The FSC works to prevent child abuse in San Juan and Grand counties and provides respite care for families. Respite care is last-minute child care for parents who cannot find care and need to go to a doctor’s or mental health appointment or emergency, or somewhere else, where reliable child care may not be available.
“In Grand County there is a child care crisis for children two and under,” Sowell said. “In the summer, you find eight- and nine-year-old kids watching their siblings because there is not child care available in Moab. We know this because after school starts, we have a much higher demand for our services for ages two and under.”
Sowell said there are only two state-licensed day cares in Moab that will take kids two and under.
“They’re full — that’s four children,” Sowell said. “With the TANF grant, we’ve been working to get more child care centers that can take children under two, and we’ve actually been pretty successful.”
Another organization that shares the building with FSC is the Grand County Children’s Justice Center, which provides a safe space for children that have allegedly experienced abuse and are going through the legal process of addressing an abusive situation.
“Our center combines a child-focused setting with a multifaceted team approach to minimize trauma for the child during the investigative process,” Grand County Children’s Justice Center Director Connie Haycock said.
The center also serves minors who are allegedly the victims of physical abuse or a primary witness to an incident.
The Grand County Children’s Justice Center will also be participating in the open house on Sept. 21 to raise awareness for the agency’s work in the community.
“Everyone knows about the Family Support Center, but few people know about (the Children’s Justice Center) because of the privacy and confidentiality of dealing with juveniles,” Haycock said. “People really don’t know that we’re here. They confuse us with the Family Support Center, so it’s mostly just educating the public that we’re here and that we’re a separate service. We’re not open to the public because families and kids that come here are brought by law enforcement or Child Protective Services, but it’s important for the community to know that we’re here and how we’re serving the community.”
Evans emphasized the importance of community awareness and involvement to the success of these services.
“Christmas Box facilities are community facilities and, in order to work, must be embraced by the community in which they operate,” Evans said. “It is valuable for people in the area to know what resources are available and, just as important, how they can help. We believe the best place for a child is in a loving family. But, in the absence of that, the community needs to step forward and fill that role. Loving people are needed.”
The open house offers the opportunity for the community to go inside to visit the facilities and see how the people who need help are being served. The open house will feature special guest Richard Paul Evans, the founder and chairman of the Christmas Box House.
“We hope everyone comes out and sees what we’ve been doing,” Sowell said. “We’d love to have anybody and everybody. We’re really hopeful it’s a huge turnout because the staff has been working hard, and thanks to all of our supporters it’s all been possible. Without them, we couldn’t have done it.”
Family Support Center and Children’s Justice Center host event on Sept. 21 at the Christmas Box House
“It is valuable for people in the area to know what resources are available and, just as important, how they can help. We believe the best place for a child is in a loving family. But, in the absence of that, the community needs to step forward and fill that role. Loving people are needed.”
Where: Christmas Box House, 180 S. 300 East, Suite 1
When: Friday, Sept. 21, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Information: Call the Grand County Family Support Center at 435-259-1658