Jennifer is 10 years old and has an abusive father. Her mother has been constantly abused by her partner, both physically and emotionally. Happily for both Jennifer and her mother, they found refuge at Harbor House of Johnston County.
Children who are exposed to abuse become fearful and anxious. They feel isolated and vulnerable. They are starved for attention, affection and approval. Harbor House provides safety, compassion, advocacy services, resources, and programs to help families regain their independence and happiness.
In 2016, Harbor opened a new shelter that provided wonderful facilities for families. However, it was quickly realized that one thing that was missing – a place for children to play.
Harbor Staff approached the Clayton Rotary Club to see if they could help build a playground. Kay Johnson, Executive Director of Harbor Shelter said, “My approach to the Clayton morning Rotary was truly a no brainer. The passion exuded by the members and their commitment to serve the community is truly the heart of who they are.”
Beginning in spring 2017, all four Rotary clubs in Johnston County agreed to work together to build a playground for the children. “A playground will allow children who enter our facility to have an outlet from the trauma that they experienced by interacting and engaging with nature,” Johnson added.
The Rotary clubs of Clayton, Clayton Mid-Day, Central Johnston County and Cleveland School raised $8,000 for the project. This was matched with an additional $8,000 from a grant provided by Rotary District 7710.
Harbor staff then selected the play equipment that would work best in the chosen location.
Ruth Anderson, who is a member of the Clayton Rotary Club and a member of the Board of Directors of Harbor, coordinated the involvement of the Rotary clubs and the construction of the playground equipment.
Over a two-day period recently the Rotary Clubs surveyed and cleared the site, mapped out locations for the equipment, sunk support posts, assembled the equipment and landscaped the play area.
Ten-year-old Jennifer now has a safe place to live plus a fun place to release her pent-up energy and leave behind some of the fear and caution that engulfed her life.
The playground is another avenue in providing support for families.
According to the American Psychological Association, it is important for children and families to “reestablish routines and roles that can help return normalcy to a child’s life, providing reassurance and a sense of safety as a way of coping with traumatic events and moving towards a full recovery.
Harbor House is Johnston County’s only nonprofit agency for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and families in transition.
Rotary Clubs have been active in Johnston County for 93 years, starting with the Rotary Club of Clayton, and the most recent club formed was the Rotary Club of Clayton Mid-Day in 2010.