New CAP center boss sets month of events

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 29, 2010

The Exchange Club of Vicksburg Child Abuse Prevention Center has a new driver, and she has a plan for April, which is Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Erma Driver became executive director in August, and the coming month is her first dedicated to making the public aware of the goals — and needs — of the center and the children it helps.

“We’re taking the entire month to do community-awareness events,” Driver said. “The community has been very warm. We’re just getting ready for April,” which is child abuse prevention month nationwide.

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A Jackson resident, Driver has a background in corporate business.

“I have not done anything more rewarding than working in the nonprofit sector,” she said. “I want to use my talents to help people.”

At the CAP Center, Driver has a team of five to work with families in Warren County.

They are Susie Calbert, a Court-Appointed Special Advocate coordinator; Angie Jones, a parent-aid case manager; Kathy Triplett, a parent-aid coordinator; Amber Smith, administrative assistant; and Melody Whitney, the supervisor of the Fresh Start Learning Center.

As part of its special month, the CAP Center will open its doors to a new location during a grand opening and open house on April 6.

In February, the center moved from its Walnut Street location, where it has been since 2007, to a 2,300-square-foot office at Manor Drive and Wisconsin Avenue. Board president James Wilkerson will speak during a presentation set for 5 to 7 p.m. Driver encourages the public to come and see what the center has to offer.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is that the CAP Center has the second oldest CASA program in the state,” she said. “We have volunteers who work with children one-on-one in the schools. We work directly with the youth court system here. We work closely with the (Mississippi) Department of Human Services.”

If you go

Child Abuse Prevention Month

• Grand Opening/Open house — 5-7 p.m. April 6; James Wilkerson, speaker; office at 3527 Manor Drive

• Day of Remembrance — 5:30 p.m. April 12; Dr. Robert Walker, speaker; Art Park at Catfish Row on Levee Street; open to public.

• Blue Jean & Blue Ribbon day — April 23; everyone encouraged to wear blue jeans and blue ribbons.

• Storybook Time — 10:30 a.m. Thursdays in April; story time by volunteers of Vicksburg Exchange Club; Warren County-Vicksburg Public Library, 700 Veto St.; free.

The CAP Center, sponsored by the Vicksburg Exchange Club and the National Foundation for the Prevention of Child Abuse, also provides parenting education, parent aid and life coaching, pre-school day treatment and a drug/violence and teen pregnancy prevention program.

As part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, a Day of Remembrance is set for April 12 at the Art Park at Catfish Row in the downtown area.

Former Vicksburg mayor Robert Walker will be guest speaker. Details of the event are available at the center’s office.

Also, areawide supporters of child advocacy are encouraged to wear blue jeans and blue ribbons on April 23.

Blue ribbons became a nationwide battle cry for all abused children in 1989, when a Virginia grandmother started the campaign in remembrance of her 3-year-old grandson murdered by his mother’s abusive boyfriend.

“The blue indicates all the bruises on a child when they’re abused,” said Calbert.

According to a 2008 report released by the MDHS, there were 162 reports of child abuse or neglect in Warren County. Driver said out of that number, the CAP Center handled 107. Statewide, there were 19,631 reports of child abuse. The 2009 MDHS report is not available yet; however, the CAP Center’s 2009 report showed that their office was taking care of 31 cases of child abuse involving 53 children.

“While we offer preventative strategies, we teach people how to deal with child abuse,” said Driver. “Different people parent different ways. All children need love, and some need different types of discipline.”

In 2009, the CAP Center reported they had assisted 1,384 people in a variety of services. Their volunteers logged 665 hours.

Despite the help, Driver said funds are low.

“We have more cases of abuse now because of the economy,” she added. “We don’t want to be in a position where we have to turn people away. It’s been a hardship.”

For those who seek to volunteer time or to donate money, call the office at 601-634-0557.

The CAP Center receives funds from the United Way of West Central Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety-Victims of Crime Acts and Safe Drug Free Schools, the Warren County Board of Supervisors and private donors.

In November, the CAP Center, which opened on March 4, 1985, will celebrate its 25th anniversary.

“We enjoy our job as long as we come to work knowing we can make a difference,” Driver said.

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at