$100K donation to Children’s Advocacy Center to support in-house mental health services

  • The Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin Inc., located at 56 Wisdom Way in Greenfield. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Merrill Gagne of Gagne Wealth Management Group, at left, recently dropped off a $10,000 check to Irene Woods and Samantha Staelens of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin Inc. Gagne Wealth Management Group is donating a total of $100,000 to the nonprofit over the next 10 years. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • WOODS

For the Recorder
Published: 12/6/2021 6:47:40 PM
Modified: 12/6/2021 6:47:12 PM

GREENFIELD — Thanks to a $100,000 donation given over the next 10 years, the nonprofit Children’s Advocacy Center of Franklin County and North Quabbin Inc. will expand its mental health services for children overcoming sexual and physical abuse.

Located at 56 Wisdom Way, the Children’s Advocacy Center offers a safe, child-friendly environment for children who have disclosed physical or sexual abuse to be interviewed. Through the center, children and families are also linked to medical, mental health, victim advocacy and other services on a case-by-case basis.

Merrill Gagne of Gagne Wealth Management Group at 238 Main St., said he wanted to give the rolling donation to support and further the center’s mission. Over the next decade, Gagne Wealth Management Group will commit $100,000, or $10,000 per year, to the Children’s Advocacy Center.

“I’m trying to build some awareness for what the CAC is doing and support all their good work,” Gagne said.

According to Children’s Advocacy Center Executive Director Irene Woods, this donation will go a long way to support the center’s services and annual budgeting.

“We have never had sustaining income before,” Woods said.

The nonprofit is funded almost entirely by grants or donations. Woods said the Children’s Advocacy Center “has been very lucky” to be supported by residents of Franklin County and the North Quabbin region who have attended fundraising breakfasts, made donations and helped acquire grants to maintain core services.

Specifically, the rolling donation from Gagne Wealth Management Group will be used to expand the center’s mental health services, so children reporting abuse can receive free and consistent care. Instead of having to be referred to a different agency that may be expensive and require insurance, Woods said children will be able to come to the Children’s Advocacy Center for mental health support “where they’re already comfortable and where it’s a safe place for them.”

Without this in-house support, the center refers children to different agencies in the community. Beyond the cost, Woods said the prospect of having to build new trust and relationships can be overwhelming, and sometimes families don’t follow through to connect with these referred agencies. The extended services through the Children’s Advocacy Center would, hopefully, enable more children and families to continue these essential services.

Gagne and his wife, Jenn Gagne, have three young children of their own, ages 5 to 12. They visited the Children’s Advocacy Center in September for an open house commemorating Mark Ledwell Sr., who died in May. Ledwell had worked with the Children’s Advocacy Center since 2015, and led the renovations of its Wisdom Way office space.

Jenn Gagne said she met Children’s Advocacy Center board of directors President Bill Benson during an event for the Greenfield Public Library Foundation and he encouraged her to attend the September event. After getting a tour and learning more about the center’s work, the Gagnes said they were “impressed and amazed” with the ways the organization supports local children and wanted to give back. Beyond Gagne Wealth Management Group’s donation, Jenn Gagne has been volunteering there.

“They’re just phenomenal people,” she said of the Children’s Advocacy Center’s staff. “They have honed this system for children who have allegedly been abused or hurt to make it the safest and most comfortable situation that it can be for them to go through this interview process.”

The model the agency uses involves law enforcement and child protective services acting first to make sure a child is safe from an abuser. The child is then brought to the center on Wisdom Way, where the joint investigation and interview begins. Once the case has been reviewed, decisions are made about how to proceed, including whether the case is presented to the district attorney for prosecution. A suspect is either charged or the case is refused.

To learn more about the Children’s Advocacy Center, call 413-475-3401 or visit cacfranklinnq.org. To provide tax-deductible donations, visit bit.ly/2ZzY0ay.


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