Members of the Brush and Fort Morgan City Councils recently heard reports from SARA House staff about a new addition to their facility called Polli’s House and a general update on the organization’s activities.
SARA House serves victims of child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence in a seven-county region in the 13th Judicial District, an area of approximately 10,000 square miles.
“We are proud of the work that is being done at SARA House,” said Paula Bragg, executive director and founder of the Center for Child Welfare and Domestic Violence.
The center served about 125 children in 2022, she said, with each child taking part in a forensic exam, “or what we call a wellness exam,” Bragg said.
In a video presented during city council meetings, among the statistics shared is that 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday. Among those listening to the presentation was City Councilman Doug Schossow, who has worked for the center as a law enforcement officer and in prevention.
“SARA House is a great resource for our community,” said Councilman Clint Anderson, who was commended during the presentation for allowing SARA House staff access to Fort Morgan High School in his capacity as Principal.
He noted a deep familiarity with the SARA House staff member who would be involved with FMHS and understood that this could be beneficial for students.
“Kids have a lot of things to do,” Anderson said. “There have been a lot of mental health issues since the pandemic. This has created a good opportunity to speak to someone who is not a teacher and provides another opportunity.”
The center is funded in part by Prairie Challenge fundraisers hosted by agricultural producer Keith Bath and his personal support.
“When I first got involved, I couldn’t believe what they were doing there and how important it was for children. You stole my heart that day,” Bath says in the video.
The wellness assessment is important to both the punishment and recovery process, reports SARA House.
“We’re looking for evidence that they were abused,” said Deb Green, sexual assault investigator at SARA House. “Even though it happened years ago, there are often scars or something that shows the abuse took place.”
Centers like SARA House have helped locate evidence that could lead to a successful trial against the perpetrator of the abuse.
“Previously, doctors didn’t see an injury,” Bragg said, also explaining that in the event of strangulation, that could well be the case.
Green added, “You can actually strangle someone to death without leaving a bruise.”
The majority of customers are children, Bragg said, and the video presented to the city council walks through the facility, from artwork created by victims, to interview rooms and outdoors to a play area.
“We’ve started seeing victims of domestic violence,” Bragg said.
This opportunity evolved through a donation that began with a conversation about the challenges the center and community were facing.
“Alan and Polli Dahms made a donation to help fund this project, not from their foundation but out of their own pockets,” Bragg said. “I was just explaining some of the challenges we face and they wanted to fund it.”
The Board of Directors of SARA House includes Doug Hamik, President; Deb Paulsen, Vice President; Melody Christensen, Treasurer; and members Shawna Barbee, Eric Nickell and Jazmyn Garato.
The SARA House is located at 418 Ensign Street in Fort Morgan. Individuals interested in volunteering or otherwise providing assistance should visit SARAhouseco.org or call 970-867-2121. Stuffed animals, quilts and stationery are among the most needed donations.