By Richard Polen
I think I’ve told Kathy Olson this before, but I wish she didn’t have the job she has.
It’s not that Kathy isn’t good at her job, because she’s not just good at it, she’s great at it. So are all of the people who work with Kathy. All of them are dedicated, caring, hardworking people who just want to help the people they serve.
Most of the time, the people Kathy and her co-workers serve are children. That’s why I wish Kathy didn’t have the job she has. It would mean that there wasn’t a need for the work that she and her fellow workers do.
Kathy is executive director of the Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri. It offers a “child-friendly” setting for the investigation of child abuse.
Rather than force children to talk to child-abuse investigators in an impersonal cubicle at some sort of law enforcement office, or in a hospital emergency room, the Children’s Center offers a more relaxed, less intimidating place for investigators to speak with a child who may have been abused. Since the center opened its doors in 1997, workers there have seen more than 11,000 children. In 2012 alone, the center saw 1,041 children.
It’s tough for everyone involved. First of all, it’s tough on the child. It’s also tough on the non-abusing family members. But it’s also tough on Kathy and the other people at the center. I mentioned to Kathy that she probably has one of the most depressing jobs around. While acknowledging that her job at times can be a bit depressing, she says she and the people who work with her try not to dwell on the bad.
“All of us (at the Children’s Center) share a great love for children, and we love for children to be treated as children,” she said.
If there ever was a time when a child needed to be treated as a child, it seems to me, that time would be after being abused. And that’s what the folks at the Children’s Center do.
“Even though they have been through a traumatic event, they are still children,” Kathy said.
By the way, while talking about the work done at the Children’s Center, Kathy also talked about the work done by child-abuse investigators for area law enforcement agencies.
“The investigators are amazing,” she said. “We’re lucky we don’t see the things they see. They are actually out in the trenches.”
As you can imagine, it takes money to keep a place like the Children’s Center operating. For the most part, the Children’s Center relies on the kindness of people and organizations in Southwest Missouri for financial support.
One way folks in the area can support the Children’s Center is to make plans to attend the 16th annual Children’s Center Gala. The theme this year is a masquerade ball, which sounds sort of cool.
The gala will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, at the pavilion at Downstream Casino Resort. Champagne and hors d’oeuvres will be served during the cocktail hour, which begins at 6 p.m. Dinner will be served at 7:30 p.m., followed by a live auction. The items in the auction include a trip to Costa Rica, antique furniture and gift certificates from a number of area businesses. After the auction, a band from St. Louis will perform.
Tickets to the gala are $85 a person or $150 per couple. Black tie and masks are optional, but the event, Kathy said, is definitely a dressy affair. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 417-623-2292.
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