Youngsters planted ceremonial pinwheels at Havelock City Park last week to celebrate April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
The Community Coalition for Craven County Children put on the event to highlight the effort to stop child abuse.
“The City of Havelock and MCAS Cherry Point have worked closely with our department to prevent child abuse,” said Kent Flowers, director of the Craven County Department of Social Services. “We’ve always had a good collaboration with the city and the base and it’s even been greater since we’ve had an office down here in Havelock.”
Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Pangborn said Cherry Point was proud of its role.
“It’s our responsibility that the children are taken care of and none of us take that lightly,” he said. “That is the reason that the command relationship is so strong. We’ve learned over the years that we, as a group, have to take care of our children. That’s what makes the relationship between us and the community so great, because we understand that we have to work together, otherwise our children will not be taken care of.”
Pangborn called the children “our most valuable commodity.” He said leadership on and off the base should do everything possible to put an end to child abuse.
Children from the Child Care Network performed “This Little Smile of Mine” and other melodies as entertainment.
“This is something that is so very near and dear to my heart,” said keynote speaker Dawn Gibson, of the county’s community response program.
Gibson told of adopting a little girl who had come into the social services system from an abusive situation, then praised workers in attendance.
“Thank you to each one of you, because you make a lasting impact and a forever impression on the lives of the children you serve,” Gibson said. “Thank you for you service to this wonderful community.”
Gibson said the event goes beyond prevention of child abuse.
“This month is set aside for us to remember why we do this work that we call prevention, which is so key,” she said. “We remind parents to spend special time with their kids. Give extra hugs. Go to a park on a beautiful day like today and fly a kite. Take a moment to enjoy your own family.”
Havelock Mayor Will Lewis has two daughters.
“Anyone who knows me knows I love my little girls,” he said. “When it comes to children, I’m going to tell you what I tell my girls, which is kind of a simple thing, but I tell them all the time, that they are our future and it’s not really a choice. It’s a responsibility. And it’s our responsibility too as a team to help them realize that and to help them grow into the people that they’ll be.”
In a city proclamation, Lewis called the area’s children “our most vulnerable assets” and that child abuse and neglect is a public responsibility.
“To all the children who are here, I will tell you what I tell my girls: ‘Remember you have an incomparable soul,’” Lewis said.
The children planted pinwheels colored blue, the color of Prevent Child Abuse Month.
“As we plant these pinwheels, I would like for us to remember the purpose,” said Rondy Johnson, of Craven County Social Services. “The purpose is to build strong children to become great adults. One day they are going to be caring for us. I want us to think about the children and how we, as a community coalition, can work together to make sure that they are happy, make sure that they are strong and make sure they thrive.”