VIRGINIA

Childhelp Advocacy Center in danger of closing

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A safe haven for abused children is Fairfax County is being locked up.

The money to keep the Childhelp Advocacy Center just isn't there. But now, several people are banding together to give the center a second shot at survival.

"It is traumatic to change. I can't minimize that. What I can do is argue for the future," Childhelp board member John Harold said.

Harold refuses to let the Waples Mills Road center disappear without a fight. He's spent years helping to create a space where victims of sexual abuse could tell their stories and feel safe again.

Since 2002, the Childhelp Advocacy Center has helped around 50 children a month.

"We have a system…had…until last week…a system where a child went one place. One interviewer. It was recorded. If someone else needed to see the interview, they looked through the mirror, and it's our special space for that initial assessment that's gone now,' Harold explained .

Center volunteer Denise Balzano can't accept the apparent fate for the center either.

"In order to make our community safe for children, we need to ensure that these offenders aren't walking free.," she said.

Balzano spends a lot of time volunteering at the center, which she calls a sacred space.

Unfortunately, the national organization that keeps it running can no longer afford to do so.

Sara O'Meara, the co-founder of Childhelp, issued the following statement:

"Our lives have been dedicated to protecting children, but at this time, to continue to operate this center at a financial loss would have a profound ripple effect on our ability to heal and help children through our other programs."

Harold says he and many others are committed to finding the funds themselves.

"Whatever it takes, we have to have this," Harold added.

Victims' advocates and community leaders will again at the end of the week to continue brainstorming ways to keep the center's doors open.

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