Lincolnton orthodontist Dr. Steve Austin sees daily the side effects of neglected and abused children. As a result, Austin, who’s also board president for Lincoln County Coalition Against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center, opted to partner with more than a dozen local dentist offices in seeking the community’s help this holiday season by collecting items for the nonprofit organization.
“It’s all about prevention and education and awareness,” Austin told the Times-News on Friday.
Starting last week, Austin had boxes distributed to area dentist offices, and each office has been encouraging its own patients and others in the community to donate everyday necessities such as toilet paper, coffee, soap, and laundry detergent, among other items.
Items will be donated to Coalition on Dec. 19.
Executive Director Sherry Reinhardt is thrilled about the effort, which has been dubbed “Fill in the Gap,” a pun on both a dentist’s daily duties and the nonprofit organization’s lack of necessities for their office and area families.
“It’s genius,” she said. “I just thought that was one of the most creative things.”
Coalition has been low on items since the state cut back grants for nonprofit organizations this past year. In addition, such funding is only expected to diminish over time, Austin said. The rough state of the economy has also caused public donations to decrease.
“There have been shortfalls of basic items at the CAC house to provide for the parents and visitors and children,” Austin said, “So we decided to fill the gap.”
The holiday effort is also a competition. All donated items have been assigned a point value, and at the end of the competition, the dental office with the highest number of points will receive a free luncheon courtesy of Dr. Austin. In addition, anyone who donates an item will be entered into a drawing for a free turkey or ham.
“The dental community has really come together to support Coalition,” Austin said. “It says a lot about how great our dentists are here.”
For more than two decades, Coalition has served as a haven for sexually abused and neglected children.
“It’s a wonderful thing we have that most communities don’t,” Austin said. “Instead of a child going to a police station or hospital emergency room, they can go into an environment with toys and an increased comfort level. It’s like a home.”
One in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before age 18, Austin said.
“Think about what that does to your community,” he told the Times-News.
He encouraged individuals to save one child at a time, and ultimately, change the country.
Coalition Against Child Abuse and Child Advocacy Center is located on Policarp Road in Lincolnton.