Birthing an organization and a child

Emily Chittenden-Laird By Emily Chittenden-Laird

We are celebrating our 10th anniversary on April 4th at the Culture Center in Charleston. This week marks the fourth in a series of blogs reflecting year-by-year on the history, moments, and people of the CAC movement in West Virginia. To start with the first entry, click here.

After our funding victory in 2008, WVCAN had a $61,000 annual budget, which meant there was enough money to hire staff for the first time; I was fortunate enough to be entrusted as the first Executive Director of WVCAN. Now $61,000 isn’t a lot of money once you start subtracting the costs of  programming, organizational insurance, administration, let alone personnel, which meant I certainly didn’t have enough money for office space. I worked out of my sweet little home in Renick, WV. With two cats as office-mates and the closest thing to a co-worker being the postmaster at the Renick Post Office where I checked our mail, suffice it to say WVCAN had humble beginnings. Some things I remember vividly from those early days:

  • Waking up every morning, starting a fire in my wood stove, and putting on professional clothing even though I knew I wouldn’t see anyone that day
  • Driving to Charleston almost every week to meetings with judges, attorneys, state government officials, and hard-worn social justice advocates where I felt seriously out of my league
  • Watching the mail daily and praying our 501(c)(3) status approval would be waiting for me
  • Learning how write a nonprofit budget from the master, Trudy Laurenson

But most profoundly, I remember getting to work with the best people in the world: CAC staff and their community team partners. I did site visits to all 18 of our centers in the state that year and learned about their needs, their passion, and the incredibly difficult work they did every day. I learned about the diversity of communities and challenges (and there were many!).

But then something happened: I got pregnant. What for me was a step removed suddenly became incredibly personal. I was passionate about the CAC model and how it helped children. I had worked with hundreds of children at our center in Lewisburg, and I saw the impact it made on their lives. But now I began to think about the life of my future child: what would happen in his life? How could I best support him? The thing I knew at a gut level was that nobody can completely protect her child. And if something ever did happen to him, I felt with an intense maternal instinct — I would want a CAC to be there to help.

My passion and belief in CACs has only grown over the last 7 years of motherhood – if one of my sweet boys (now 7 and 5) were sexually abused, I know there would be help for them and for me. With a CAC, they would be able to find hope and healing and move forward. I’m so proud of my children and the organization for which I was present at the birth.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

For the latest updates from WVCAN, enter your email below to subscribe to our newsletter.