Like many during the current recession, Dan Hillman needs money.
As executive director of Child Enrichment Inc., Hillman depends on donations so the private nonprofit agency can continue providing services to three counties.
In February, Hillman asked Columbia County commissioners for a $25,000 annual contribution to support Child Enrichment.
Hillman was told commissioners no longer add charitable donations as budgeted line items.
"It could easily get out of control," Commissioner Scott Dean said, adding that funding one nonprofit organization means others also would expect funding. Child Enrichment's $650,000 annual budget is supported from corporate and private donations, sporadic government funding, including $30,000 from Augusta-Richmond County, and two annual fundraisers -- The Art of Chocolate and Cookin' For Kids.
"I am following up trying to make the point that we are not just a charity. We're doing a service," Hillman said.
Hillman's only option to receive taxpayer money in Columbia County is to petition individual commissioners for a cut of their $6,000 discretionary funds.
In the 2008-09 fiscal year, Child Enrichment received $5,500 from those discretionary funds -- $2,500 from Dean, $2,000 from Ron Thigpen and $1,000 from Ron Cross, according to Barry Smith, Community and Leisure Services director, who oversees the money.
Child Enrichment's mission is to provide and coordinate comprehensive intervention, stabilization, advocacy and prevention services for abandoned, physically abused, sexually abused and neglected children in Columbia, Richmond and Burke counties.
Operating the state's first Child Advocacy Center, Child Enrichment provides forensic interviews for children ages 3 to 13 suspected of being sexually abused.
Of the 318 interviews conducted in 2008, 115 were performed on Columbia County residents, Hillman said.
"We couldn't prosecute our cases without them," said Columbia County sheriff's Investigator Stephanie Carani. "I don't think we'd get the convictions that we get without them."
Columbia County Juvenile Court Judge Doug Flanagan said he, too, depends heavily on Child Enrichment volunteers as Court Appointed Special Advocates.
With each abuse case, Flanagan said he receives a "pink sheet," an evaluation from the assigned CASA agent detailing the facts of the case, photos and recommendations.
"They (the children) need a representative," Flanagan said. "Their reports (are) priceless."
Child Enrichment provided CASA agents to 74 Columbia County children in 2008 and counseling to 31 children in the county.
Hillman said if Child Enrichment were a profit-oriented business the services it provided to Columbia County courts and law enforcement agencies in 2008 would cost up to $200,000.
"If we weren't here and (commissioners) had to see and hear about these cases, they would be putting money into it because this is horrible stuff going on," Hillman said.
"We're taking care of kids. We're putting families back together," Hillman said. "We're helping to identify the offending caregivers and we're helping to prosecute them in court. It is pretty critical stuff."
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