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LaGrange youngsters plant garden for victims of sexual abuse

LaGRANGE — A group of dedicated young volunteers planted some goodwill Wednesday outside Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services’ Coleman Community Center on Lincoln Street.

More than a dozen volunteers, ranging from toddlers to teens, spread mulch and planted flowers in a garden on the side of the center, which serves child victims of sexual abuse, explained John Harrell, an assistant coordinator at Twin Cedars.

“When we moved here, the garden was run down,” Harrell said. “Last year, the kids came and planted some plants. They’re back again this year, and they’ve had to do some problem solving, and they’ve divided into groups and even had a little competition.”

The volunteers came from LaGrange College’s Learn2Serve summer day camp, which blends academic studies, physical education and service-based learning opportunities. Students from Hillside Montessori school also participated, along with the school’s director, Bethany Headrick.

“It’s really important for us at Hillside to provide kids with valuable learning experiences outside of the classroom,” Headrick said. “And it’s important because it helps other kids in the community. Hopefully, we can help provide a healing experience.”

The youngsters who planted the garden may never meet the other children in the community who will benefit from it, Harrell explained. That’s because Twin Cedars is a crisis center where kids who allege they’ve been sexually abused are taken for forensic interviews. Specially trained staff sit down with the children and ask them a very specific line of questions, engineered not to be leading or guiding, Harrell said.

The inside of Twin Cedars looks more like a day care than a crisis center. Friendly looking artwork hangs on the walls and toys are scattered across rooms with child-sized furniture. The environment, Harrell said, is meant to make children feel more comfortable when they have to recount unspeakable incidents of abuse.

Harrell hopes the garden planted this week will be a haven for those children, and they’ll be able to step outside after their interviews and pick flowers or even vegetables — a “momentary distraction,” he said.

Amoria McFarlin, an 11-year-old volunteer, said Wednesday she enjoyed planting and working in the garden.

“Getting dirty is my favorite part,” she said as she showed her muddy hands. “It feels good to fix (the garden) up.”

The work is continuing on the garden, Harrell said, and the 18 bags of mulch he bought aren’t going to cover everything.

“If anyone has some bags of mulch lying around that they don’t need, we could really use them,” he said.

Twin Cedars can be reached at 706-298-0050.

From left, volunteers Lucas Wilson, 10, Tolan Bailey, 10, and Boots Martin, 11, collect mulch bags while planting a garden outside the Coleman Community Center on Wednesday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_Planting02WEB.jpgFrom left, volunteers Lucas Wilson, 10, Tolan Bailey, 10, and Boots Martin, 11, collect mulch bags while planting a garden outside the Coleman Community Center on Wednesday. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News
Volunteers spread mulch while planting a garden outside Twin Cedars’ Coleman Community Center on Wednesday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_Planting03WEB.jpgVolunteers spread mulch while planting a garden outside Twin Cedars’ Coleman Community Center on Wednesday. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News
Jonn Harrell, left, assistant coordinator of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Troup County, fist bumps with Averie Goss, 4, as the two plant a garden outside Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services’ Coleman Community Center on Lincoln Street on Wednesday.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_Planting01WEB.jpgJonn Harrell, left, assistant coordinator of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Troup County, fist bumps with Averie Goss, 4, as the two plant a garden outside Twin Cedars Youth and Family Services’ Coleman Community Center on Lincoln Street on Wednesday. Tyler H. Jones | Daily News
Youngsters plant garden for victims of sexual abuse

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.