Four charged in Wadley park fire
By Bonnie K. Sargent
Four boys were arrested Thursday, June 9, in relation to a fire that was set in the public park in Wadley.
Two of the boys were juveniles, ages 14 and 15. The others were 17-year-old Demetrius Brown, of Wadley, and 18-year-old Damien Simpkins, also of Wadley. The boys were charged with theft by taking, interference with government property and arson in the first degree.
Wadley Police Chief Wesley Lewis said that the fire was reported by a citizen who was on his way to work. Lewis said the citizen said he saw the fire and the boys running and called it in.
Lewis told council members in the Monday Wadley city council meeting that the boys had pushed a picnic table up against the fence so they could jump over it and get away. He said Wadley does have a curfew but nobody saw the boys out.
“One of the boys’ father didn’t even know he had left the house,” Lewis said. “He thought he was still in bed.”
The arson took place around 5 a.m. Lewis said the boys set fire to the recreation building in the city park. He had not yet gotten an estimate on how much it would cost to repair the damage.
Lewis said he didn’t know for sure what would happen to the two juveniles, but there is a possibility of probation. He said they may even have to go before the superior court, because of the felony charges they received.
In the monthly council meeting on Monday, June 13, the council agreed to look into purchasing cameras to go up in the park, to prevent further crime.
Church builds youth camp in Wadley
By Carol McLeod
Men from churches all over Georgia have high hopes that one week in Wadley will make a difference to at least 80 youth.
The men are members of the Georgia Fellowship of the Church of God and belong to churches from throughout the state.
On Saturday, June 11, about 15 men worked in the camp facility at Pineola Church of God in Wadley, as well as on the grounds and at the church to get ready for the young people who will be attending camp the week that begins Sunday, June 26.
Gonice Davis, a member of Pineola as well as a Jefferson County Commissioner, said he hopes at least 100 people will be staying on the campground.
“It’s the first time the church is doing this,” he said, adding the campground has held other camps but this will be open to members of any Church of God in Georgia. The camp will be open to youth from ages 9 through 18, he said.
Davis said the camp building has 28 rooms where campers can stay, plus a large meeting room on the second floor.
The rooms are grouped by two, with a connecting door between them. Each room has its own bathroom and a door into the hallway.
There are two handicapped accessible rooms at the end of one corridor, with a handicapped accessible entrance from outside.
The rooms also have their own sprinklers.
There’s a back patio and a washing machine and dryer.
Davis said the building was built about six years ago.
Rev. Brent Vicars, pastor to students at Town Center Community Church in Marietta, is the director for the event, Davis said.
“The youth camp has been done at Pineola Church,” Vicars said. “This is the first year we’ve been able to combine all of our camps together into one camp and that’s the Georgia Fellowship of the Church of God.”
Vicars said there are almost 50 churches in the fellowship. Churches belonging to the organization are from Savannah to Toccoa, he said.
“It covers the whole state. We have brothers and sisters everywhere. This will be the first year all the churches will be coming together, all that we could get to get there,” Vicars said.
“They’ve done youth camp at the campground for a number of years. They didn’t do a camp at all last year and this is a new start,” he said.
“As of today, the number keeps going up every day, I think I have 79 kids who are coming plus 15 adults,” Vicars said in an interview Friday, June 10.
“It will probably go up. Every time I get more kids, I have to have another adult. By the time we’re done with all the sign ups and everything, we’ll probably have 80 kids and 20 adults, so about 100,” he said.
“I’ve been a youth pastor for 10 years and have been working with camps ever since. Probably 12 years, there were a couple of years where I was just a volunteer,” Vicars said.
“This is the first time I’ve ever done a camp at Wadley. The Georgia Fellowship has done camps there for years,” he said.
Vicars said there are scholarship programs for some of the youth.
“We have kids who pay their way. Some churches have fundraisers. Some of these kids put a lot of effort,” he said. “They could be doing a lot of other things this summer; but, they’re coming to camp. These kids work hard.”
Vicars said the youth at his church have been working since January to raise the money to attend the camp. A lot of planning goes in to making sure there is plenty for the campers to do, he said.
“Literally each hour of the day has to be mapped out so you don’t have chaos,” he said.
Davis said there will be at least one adult for each suite. There is also a life station to allow for handicapped access to the second floor. There is a flight of stairs inside the building as well as a flight on the outside.
Rev. Hosea Anderson, who is the chair of the Georgia Fellowship of the Church of God, said, “Our long term goal is to have camps strategically in Jefferson County. We want this to be a giving experience.”
Davis said he is making arrangements with Wadley Mayor Herman Baker to provide work for the campers. The youth may help with work at the city park and with programs the city may be conducting as well as working around the camp grounds.
Volunteers from churches around the state worked over several weekends to get the campground and building ready for the campers.
“It takes a lot of time, energy and effort to make these camps happen,” Vicars said, adding that having the youth attend the camp makes all the work worthwhile.
Rape crisis victim advocates needed
By Bonnie K. Sargent
Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services is seeking volunteers to serve as Victim Advocates in the Jefferson County area. Advocates should be able to respond to Jefferson County Hospital within 30 minutes of being called when a sexual assault case is presented at the hospital. Training will be provided for all volunteers.
Prior to the Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services presence in Jefferson County, cases such as these were handled in the emergency room by Tonya Wilkson. Judy Jones, the Volunteer Advocate Coordinator for Jefferson and Burke counties, said Wilkson provided these services with a degree of excellence.
Jones said the Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services did not have an office here or a coordinator, which is what she was hired to do. She said the director wanted to be able to offer more services in rural counties and that’s how her job came about.
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“Without a presence in the county, I’m not sure that victims knew where to go and what to do,” she said. “We are hoping the people will feel more support with more of an awareness here.”
Jones first got involved in Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services in April. She retired from the Department of Family and Child Services after 30 years of experience.
Investigators from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office met with representatives from Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services at the beginning of June. Lt. Robert Chalker said he met with Jones and another woman from McDuffie County who works with University Hospital. Chalker will be teaching a part of the volunteer Victim Advocate training. He will teach the volunteers about the investigator’s perspective, what it is they do and their methods.
Chalker works all of the sex crimes in Jefferson County. Wrens, Wadley and Louisville all have officers who handle those cases within the cities. Chalker has been investigating these sorts of crimes for 19 years.
Chalker said the county gets around half a dozen adult rape cases reported every year. He said they get around a dozen reports of statutory rape a year. Statutory rape means having sex with someone under the age of 16. Chalker said someone under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex. He said when it comes to statutory rape, it isn’t up to the victim to press charges or even the victim’s parents. Statutory rape cases are handled by the District Attorney’s office.
Chalker said in the state of Georgia, a male cannot be a victim of rape, unless it is statutory.
On average, around 20 accounts of child molestation are reported in Jefferson County each year, said Chalker.
Chalker said these numbers are pretty steady. He said every few years the schools hold a Good Touch, Bad Touch class and there are usually more reports after that.
Assistant Superintendent Donnie Hodges said the Good Touch, Bad Touch class is presented by elementary school counselors for children in early grades. Hodges said they met in June and agreed that the class needs to be updated.
“We’re hoping this year to bring in a new program,” she said. “Although Good Touch, Bad Touch has been good and effective.”
Hodges said they are hoping to get some new technology and up-to-date information and methods.
Hodges said if a teacher or other school employee suspects a child is being abused, there is a specific protocol of which all employees are aware. If abuse is suspected, it is reported to Burene Hill, a local social worker. Hill will then investigate further with law enforcement and the Department of Family and Child Services. The issue is then worked out through the court system.
Hodges said the school system has a strong philosophy to which they try to hold firm. The philosophy is that the employees know how important it is for children to feel like they have someone to talk to, an adult they can trust in the building, so they do feel they can tell somebody if something is happening.
“It’s important to have caring adults in the building,” Hodges said. “Sometimes a child really doesn’t have anybody else.”
Chalker said counseling and sometimes interviews for child victims are handled by the Sunshine House in Swainsboro. He said counseling will sometimes be provided for the families of victims as well, if needed. Chalker said interviews for children may be set up at the Sunshine House, depending on the child’s maturity level.
Chalker said he has been working these types of crimes since 1992. He had to go through special training and although he is not required to, he still updates his training periodically. Chalker said he spends an average of about 10 hours a year in child-abuse training.
Chalker said the youngest abuse case he ever handled was an infant. The oldest was a woman in her late 80s, early 90s. In that case, the offender was a sixteen year old boy who is still in prison. He was tried as an adult.
Chalker said victims in these cases range from infant to elderly, both genders and all races. He said there are many different types of abuse, ranging from physical to mental.
Chalker said most victims know their attackers, especially in cases of child abuse. Chalker said probably one out of 100 child abuse cases are committed by strangers. For the most part it is someone the child is related to or a caretaker.
Chalker said about half of the victims of adult rape know their attacker. In statutory rape, he said, almost 100 percent know the offender.
Chalker said most of the calls he gets come from the hospital or from the Department of Child and Family Services.
Chalker said Victim Advocates are important. Advocates are someone for the victim to talk to, to let them know what kind of help is out there. He said it could help make the prosecution easier in some cases.
“If someone didn’t want to talk to investigators, they could talk to an advocate or have the advocate in the interview with them to make them feel more comfortable,” he said.
“The Rape Crisis volunteers provide a valuable service to victims of rapes and to law enforcement and to the court system, especially to the district attorney’s office,” said Jefferson County District Attorney Hayward Altman. “The service they provide to these victims is a tremendous asset to the victims and the communities they’re in. At a time when it’s difficult for victims to step forward and follow through with therapy and with treatment, they provide the encouragement to get that done.”
A press release stated that Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services has been providing Victim Advocacy for 35 years in the Augusta area. Working under the auspices of University Hospital, the mission of Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services is to provide crisis intervention, advocacy, counseling and prevention education to men, women and children.
Services offered by Rape Crisis and Sexual Assault Services include a 24-hour Crisis Line, advocacy and crisis intervention, information and referral, counseling and support groups, children’s prevention programs, community education and promotion of survivor’s rights to know and choose possible courses of action.
The number for the 24-Hour Crisis Line is 706-724-5200. With that number, Jones said, a victim can speak to someone immediately. A counselor is there to direct them and if it is a victim who something has just happened to, they can be directed to the hospital they might need to go to. Another crisis line number is 1-800-656-HOPE. Jones said this number will also refer the caller to the nearest Crisis Intervention Services.
“So there are several ways you can contact us,” she said.
Jones said Volunteer Advocates provide crisis intervention by offering support at the hospital, making referrals, encouraging counseling and going to court if the victim would like their presence in court.
“We just make a commitment to them,” Jones said.
Ideally, Jones said she would like to have 10 well-trained volunteers. She said so far they have three volunteers, herself included.
Jones said she is excited that they do have an office in Jefferson County. She is located in the Family Connection Communities in Schools Building.
Volunteer Advocate training will be held in Louisville, July 29, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and July 30 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer Victim Advocate, or would like additional information, please contact Judy Jones at 706-832-0792 or 478-625-0524. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org.