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Project Fresh Start seeks to provide comfort to children

Local law enforcement is partnering with a new program in Chilton County geared toward preventing child abuse.

Project Fresh Start seeks to bring hope to children who have been victims of abuse with a bag full of different items that helps “restore their faith in people, courage to overcome their trauma, and give them a sense of hope for a healthier future.”

“We have had so much wonderful support from the community,” organizer Katrina Hubbard said. “The program initially launched in October, and we are hoping that we will have more than 1,000 bags within the next couple of weeks.”

The bags are geared for children in different age groups including newborn-4, 5-11 and 12-17.

Items placed in the bags for the newborn-4 bags include storybooks, Teddy bears, blankets, coloring books, crayons, stickers, hygiene kits and a Bible.

Similar items are placed in the 5-11 bags, but a blue ribbon bracelet, a journal with a pen or pencil and socks are added.

In the 12-17 bags, two journals are included with the addition of the other items.

“When a child has gone through a traumatic situation, they can receive a bag with items that shows that there is someone out there who cares,” Hubbard said. “They can receive a bag and feel like someone is looking out for them.”

Agencies who will have the Fresh Start bags available to hand out to children who have been abused include Butterfly Bridge Children’s Advocacy Center, Chilton County Sheriff’s Department, Clanton Police Department, Thorsby Police Department, Jemison Police Department and Maplesville Police Department.

Hubbard said once all of the bags are assembled, the agencies participating would have some of the bags to hand out.

“We are working on getting the bags assembled right now,” Hubbard said. “We have had so many different donations that we have been trying to get all of the items together, and we are really excited about putting the bags together to be able to hand out.”

Chilton County Sheriff John Shearon said he thinks the project will be beneficial for his department when dealing with children who have experienced an element of trauma.

“We have previously carried Teddy bears in our vehicles for situations that come up that involve a child,” Shearon said. “Whether it is a wreck or a child who has been abused, we want to be able to provide comfort to them. The Project Fresh Start Bags are going to be similar to that. They will make a bad situation better and put a smile on their face, and kind of take a sting out of the bad situation.”

Jemison Police Chief Shane Fulmer said he is looking forward to having the bags to hand out to children after working cases involving child abuse.

“Any situation where a child is involved, it is very important that we provide a sense of comfort and help them in that moment,” Fulmer said. “I think back throughout my years in law enforcement, and these bags would have been beneficial in so many instances.”

Hubbard said the majority of the bags will be stored at Butterfly Bridge, but law enforcement officials throughout the county will have bags in their vehicles or offices to hand out.

Currently, Hubbard is accepting donations for the bags from schools, churches, local businesses, doctor and dentist offices and members of the community.

The organization also has a Facebook page, which Hubbard said is updated frequently to list out the current needs for the bags.

For more information, visit Project Fresh Start on Facebook or contact Hubbard at (205) 299-4798.