JONES COUNTY, Miss. (WDAM) - In 2018, more than 60 children were victims of child abuse that lead to an investigation by law enforcement in Jones County
An organization named Cherished Hearts is working to fix that.
“There are hundreds, literally hundreds of reports of child abuse in Jones County, that’s just Jones County,” said Dana Bumgardner, president of Cherished Hearts.
Bumgardner and her team at Cherished Hearts are working to help victims of child abuse by building a children’s advocacy center.
“What a children’s advocacy center does is it provides forensic interviewing to work with local law enforcement to try and get some of these perpetrators of child abuse behind bars, have access to services like basic necessities, counseling, medical care things like that for children who have been abused,” said Bumgardner.
Bumgardner says those resources are too far away to be effective for victims in the Pine Belt.
“Right now, our kids are travelling to the coast or to Jackson to get the services of a children’s advocacy center," Bumgardner said. “And really all they’re getting because we’re having to travel so far is the benefit of the forensic interview."
Bugardner says that’s not enough.
“These kids need ongoing counseling in particular," Bumgardner said. “So Cherished Heart’s ultimate goal is to also have access to that very easily to kids and to make sure these kids get the therapy they need in addition to making sure we can help law enforcement in any way possible.”
Bumgardner thinks Cherished Hearts could make a huge impact.
“Cherished Hearts could change the lives of every child that it provides services to,” Bumgardner said.
The organization is trying to raise $5,000 dollars for the center.
Cherished Hearts will be hosting a barbecue benefit on Saturday at South Central Place in Laurel from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The benefit will also include pictures with Santa and some entertainment for kids. Tickets are $8.