Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Volunteers raising funds for advocacy center

by Rob Ireland

November 29, 2012

ELKHORN — The building, as it stands today, is only a shell. Even in early construction stages, the modestly-sized structure looks out of place next to large government institutions.

However, for child advocates the construction site represents the building of a decades-long dream, which is set to become a reality in April.

On Highway NN, across the road from the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department and next to the Walworth County Health and Human Services building, construction crews are building the Walworth County Child Advocacy Center.

The centralized location will provide a place for children ­ who are witnesses to crimes or have been victims of physical or sexual abuse to give statements to forensic interviewers, receive medical examinations and get counseling.

In Walworth County, last year more than 959 children were interviewed by someone from the WCAC, and about 25 percent of those interviews resulted in criminal charges.

Funding for the WCAC isn’t fueled through tax dollars or government grants. Instead the nonprofit organization relies strictly on donations.

The next fundraiser is the annual Mistletoe Madness and Holiday Shopping Extravaganza, which is at the Geneva National Golf Club Ballroom (see side bar.)

Margaret Downing, the community representative director, said raising money for the WCAC is challenging.

Typically, organizations can have a spokesperson, who have benefited from the program, Downing said.

“We can’t have a victim spokesperson,” Downing said.

Instead, Downing said she relies on public awareness and educating people about what the WCAC does. When people learn about the WCAC they often want to help, she said.

One of its fundraising efforts allows people to buy leaves for a “donor tree,” which will be placed inside of the building. A platinum leaf costs $5,000, a gold leaf is $1,000, a silver leaf is $750 and a bronze leaf is $500.

To purchase a leaf contact Cathy Manthei, the WCAC Co-coordinator, at (262) 949-6750 or email her, .

Donors can also contact Margaret Downing at Donations can also be made at

Some larger donors have also contributed $50,000, $25,000 and $15,000 and will have rooms in the facility named after them. The advocacy center is seeking additional donors to sponsor other rooms.

The Milwaukee Children’s Hospital is also partnering with the WCAC and will lease space in the building for at least the next five years.

Although the center needs monetary donations, it also needs caring volunteers.

Downing said the center is always seeking child advocates. The child advocates, who can be men or women, spend time with kids by reading them books and being a friendly face during a difficult time.

The advocates don’t discuss the abuse with the children, but ensure the kids are never left alone while they are at the WCAC. The advocates need to have specialized training before they can start.

Downing, a former town of Geneva administrator, became involved with the WCAC building because of Sal Dimiceli, the founder of the Time is Now charity.

Dimiceli told Downing the group would benefit from her organizational skills. Downing said she started volunteering and was hooked.