Normal is defined as conforming to a standard. The standard by which businesses are now operating has been altered to conform with regulations set in place by governmental agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Business is now being conducted under the “new normal.” Spotlight on Business generally focuses on businesses, but today the spotlight is on a non-profit that is essential.
The Gathering Place operates under the oversight of the DeKalb County Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC). Funding to support this non-profit comes partially from the proceeds of Thrifty Outfitters, located in downtown Fort Payne, and grant money from Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. Thrifty Outfitters reopened for business May 4.
The Gathering Place serves as a safe place for custodial and non-custodial exchanges and supervised visits. When COVID-19 caused stay-at-home orders to be set in place, face-to-face visitations initially appeared to be impossible. Thankfully, Zoom has allowed these visits to take place through video conferencing. This avenue allows real time, visual connections between two or more people in separate locations.
“The fear children are experiencing due to the pandemic is obvious by the fact that many constantly want to know if their parent is sick or well,” said Michelle Ibsen, Coordinator of The Gathering Place. “These children are already victims of trauma, not seeing their parents would have added to that trauma.”
Ibsen said they currently have 35 open cases and those who are taking parenting classes are still able to do so on Zoom.
The facility has plans in place for reopening in phases. Phase One will allow only one parent-child visitation at a time in the building. Check-ins will be by phone from the parking lot, then a staff member will check the child’s temperature and escort only the child inside for visitation with the non-custodial parent.
The Gathering Place staff is Lee Stout, office manager, Amber McIntire, visitation specialist. Family Support Monitors, (FSMs) include; Brevard Ward, Hanna Wilborn, Becky Crawford, Victoria Wallace, Joycelyn Wooten, Karstin Brewis, and Jessica Garmony.
The Gathering Place is located at 1214 Forest Ave. The telephone number is 256-979-1952 for more information.
— Marla Ballard’s Spotlight on Business appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition.