A large group of volunteers and advocates supporting child abuse awareness gathered outside of the Avenue Church for a candlelight service to commemorate April as Child Abuse Prevention month. The candlelight vigil, held Thursday, April 20, was the third annual hosted by Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) of Ellis County and The Avenue Church.

“April is child abuse awareness month. We, through this service, want to bring to light to the community the staggering number of child abuse cases that happen here in Ellis County,” CASA of Ellis County Executive Director Rhodie Rawls said. “Just in Ellis County alone, there were 398 reported cases last year. In Texas, 222 cases resulted in a child’s death.”

Beginning the service, County Court of Law No. 1 Judge Jim Chapman read the proclamation that declared April as Child Abuse Prevention month.

Reading from the proclamation, Chapman stated, ”Whereas, preventing child abuse and neglect is a community epidemic that depends upon the education and involvement of citizens from every sector of the community. I further call upon all citizens, community agencies, faith groups, schools, government agencies and businesses to increase their participation in efforts to support families and prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening our entire community.”

Among the organizations supporting CASA and its 70 volunteers are the efforts of the Anchors and Arrows adoption and foster care ministry at The Avenue Church.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a safe, loving, permanent home where their physical, emotional and educational need are fully met by giving a child an opportunity to realize his or her full potential,” Chapman said.