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Area angels make sure abuse victims have happy holiday

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By Damon Lawrence

Children who have been the victims of sexual abuse are already dealing with a lot.

Chris Evans-Longmire, executive director of the Kids First Child Advocacy Center in Loudon County, said the last thing they need to experience is the disappointment of waking up on Christmas morning with no presents.

Thanks to a program offered at the center, some won't have to.

“If it wasn't for this center and the people that adopted my daughter through the program, I wouldn't have been able to provide Christmas for her,” said one father, whose daughter is a client at the center.

“It's a real blessing.”

The center provides free therapy for children who have been identified as victims of physical or sexual abuse in the Ninth Judicial District, which consists of Roane, Loudon, Meigs and Morgan counties.

The center's Christmas program connects needy clients with people and businesses who want to provide presents.

“We have people that will buy gifts, and then we have people that will give money and ask us to buy the gifts for the kids,” Evans-Longmire said.

One of the businesses that helps out is United Community Bank's Lenoir City office.

Mortgage banker Angie Abston, who is an Oliver Springs High School graduate, said the bank got involved three years ago.

“We felt like they did something extremely important and helped so many children,” she said.

“So instead of employees giving to each other, we decided as a group that we would give to a fund to help this project.”

Abston said helping out has become a tradition for bank employees.

“We started this just to see how it would work, and then we got to where we wanted to do this every year,” she said.

“We would rather do this than exchange gifts among ourselves.”

Evans-Longmire said the program has been around seven years.

“We weren't doing anything for our kids at Christmas,” she said. “We started finding people who wanted to help. It kind of grew from that seven years ago to now people will contact us and say I want to adopt a kid at Christmas this year or I've got money I want to give.”

Evans-Longmire said they have a get-together at the center around Christmas for gift recipients and their families. The children receive their presents and visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
Desserts are also provided.

“It's nice to know that these kids can wake up on Christmas morning with gifts, especially a kid that has been here because they've been through an abusive situation and happiness has not been their friend lately,” Evans-Longmire said.

For anyone interested in helping out next year or learning more about the center and its programs, call Evans-Longmire at 865-986-1505.