Public Health Fair connects community services

Toys, gift baskets and bikes were raffled off at Saturday's Public Health Fair.

More than 30 organizations packed the Cottage Grove Armory on Saturday for this year’s Public Health Fair. Booths were set up by organizations providing services ranging from mental health counseling to nutritional programs.

Because many of the groups in attendance Saturday operate out of Eugene offices, their services to the Cottage Grove area may be relatively unknown; Family Relief Nursery intake specialist Crystal Morrison saw the event as a great opportunity for exposure and education.

“It’s really just letting families know that we’re here for them and what we offer,” she said. “It’s also a great time to network and have other agencies get together that we don’t usually get to see.”

The fair was started four years ago by members of Family Relief Nursery and an intern in the Family and Human Services program out of the University of Oregon.

“It’s actually run by interns every year,” said Morrison, “Usually, this is their senior project.”

As part of the project, interns contact agencies they think would be appropriate to be in attendance.

Donations also come in from all over the community for a raffle event held at the end of the day. This year, the Armory stage showcased a large selection of donations that included toys, gift baskets and several child-sized bicycles.

Fair attendees included well-known groups such as the Cub Scouts and 90by30, but also provided a platform for lesser known groups like Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA), whose parked Harley Davidsons outside the building and full biker regalia at the booth generated some interest.

“We’re here to help children not be fearful in their world,” said Dreamer, BACA vice president and agency liaison for Emerald Valley Charter. “The way we accomplish it is we actually bring them in to our family,”

BACA members only go by “road names” to avoid being served papers to testify, which may separate them from the children they’re trying to serve.

The process of bringing a child into their family is selective and child-driven, said Dreamer.

Typically, BACA will get a call from a parent or guardian and send a child liaison to vet the family and make sure the group is the right fit to serve the child. If it’s a fit, they let the child choose a road name and patches for their own tailored biker vest.

“So they’re being empowered from the start,” said Dreamer.

Giving a child that confidence is critical to helping them face their fear. “A lot of times what it is, is it’s a child who’s afraid to speak their truth in court,” Dreamer said. “Either they’re not able to do a forensic interview or they’re afraid someone will hurt them if they tell their truth. … So what we do is we bring them into our family and we become something bigger and stronger than what they are facing.”

The group serves children as young 3 or 4 years old and teenagers up to 18.

“We work hand-in-hand with other agencies,” said Dreamer.

Dreamer recalled one case in which a child they brought in was quiet, timid and likely threatened by their victimizer not to speak out.

Empowered by having the BACA members attend the court proceedings, the child was able to speak confidently during examination by the opposing attorney, face the perpetrator and point directly at the accused to say, “You did it.”

Exposure for groups like BACA are made possible by networking events like the Public Health Fair. For more information about events, classes or resources, visit www.frncg.org.

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