Advocacy center completes new facility

Special to the EE
Ray of Hope Advocacy Center Executive Director Rhonda Hudson, left, stands outside of the newly refurbished building with Hope Floats Community co-chairs Jack Ihrig, center, and Bob Fraser, left. Courtesy

Ray of Hope Advocacy Center recently completed the renovation of their new facility located at 706 E. Third Street. The renovation culminates a successful $800,000 capital campaign to better serve child abuse victims throughout Washington, Nowata and Osage counties, and southeast Kansas.

Bartlesville contractor Gorman Construction completed the nine-month renovation. In the new, larger facility Ray of Hope will continue to respond with care and professionalism to the outcry of child abuse victims, while having the space to launch new programs to better prevent and treat.

“The new building is absolutely a dream come true,” Ray of Hope Executive Director Rhonda Hudson said.

“It allows our team to continue Ray of Hope’s current services in a space better suited for the increased need while providing prevention and treatment services to abuse victims.

“To begin to break the cycle of abuse, we have to wrap hurting children and families with prevention and treatment services. We knew we could do more for these children and are unbelievably grateful the community has provided us the means to make it happen.”

“This completion is a victory for the entire Bartlesville area and shows our community’s heart,” Hope Floats Campaign Co-Chair and Ray of Hope Board President Jordan Ihrig said.

“Child abuse isn’t easy to face, but the Bartlesville area rose above that fear to protect our children in need. Our response and support for the most innocent victims among us shows the incredible character of our community.”

Ihrig attributes the campaign’s success to the vast number of donors, both large and small, who championed it along the way.

“We celebrate every single dollar raised because we feel it is more than money,” she said. “We see hurting children who need help every day. Each dollar raised was a message that someone believes in these children – someone cares about their protection and path of hope. We couldn’t be more grateful.”

The new building is the former Grace-Epworth United Methodist Church, which was donated to Ray of Hope by East Cross United Methodist Church.

Local architect Dan Keleher worked with Ray of Hope’s board of directors to strategically design the space for current services and necessary growth. In the larger facility Ray of Hope is partnering with Samaritan Counseling and Growth Center to provide on-site mental health services including trauma-focused counseling for children and families, as well as support groups and parenting classes for non-offending caregivers.

“Unfortunately, many of the child abuse victims Ray of Hope sees never receive vital counseling following abuse,” Hope Floats Campaign Co-Chair Marice Wasemiller said. “By never fully processing and healing from the trauma of abuse, children are vulnerable to many long-term health risks and poor outcomes.

“Having accessible counseling in a familiar, child friendly location will increase follow through of mental health referrals. Also, support groups for non-offending caregivers are essential to help them parent through trauma, practice positive parenting skills, learn how to develop healthy support systems and more,” she said.

Other services at the new location include an emergency custody clothing closet for children removed from unsafe environments with nothing more than what they are wearing. A conference center allocates space for community education and child advocacy training, meetings, support groups, parenting classes and conferences. The agency functions better overall with separate waiting areas for family privacy and individual offices for staff dealing with private and graphic child abuse information and images.

Major donors to the campaign include — The Lyon Foundation, The Jeanalee and Charles Parsons Foundation, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Ruth K. Nelson, The Hale Family Foundation and Truity Credit Union.

“We owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all of our supporters but especially to The Lyon Foundation,” Hudson said. “Their 50-percent match enabled us to move forward quickly with construction and develop space for the programs and partnerships that are ready help area families.”

Lyon Foundation President John B. Kane said the organization chose to support the project because they recognized the need for the service in the community.

“When our most innocent are victimized by sexual abuse, it takes a unique set of skills to help that child through the process of collecting evidence, potentially testifying for the court, and finally helping the child heal both physically and emotionally,” Kane said.

“We believe that Ray of Hope has proven their value over the years, so we feel privileged to be able to support the vision to expand their ability to meet this growing need in our community,” he said.

Hope Floats Community Chair Bob Fraser said there are many great causes to support in the community, but Ray of Hope’s work reaches his heart.

“Thanks to them, innocent children have hope. Children, families, area foundations and many others responded to the need and helped us reach our goal,” Fraser said. “I am so proud to be a small part of such a great effort that will continue to make a positive impact on these children. I love how this community continues to step up and make dreams come true.”

Fraser and his eight-year-old grandson, Jack Ihrig, served as community chairs for the campaign. The duo raised project funds and awareness of the loving, safe relationships that every child deserves along the way.

“Kids need to feel safe,” Jack Ihrig said. “Ray of Hope is a happy place that helps kids, and the bigger building will let them help more kids who need it. The people are nice and want all kids, just like me, to be loved.”

An open house is set for Sept. 20, giving donors and the community the opportunity to tour the new facility and learn more about Ray of Hope’s services.

Following reports of child abuse, Ray of Hope Advocacy Center provides on-site forensic interviews, medical exams, victim advocacy, community education and a coordinated approach among child protection services. The nonprofit brings together representatives from — law enforcement, child protection, prosecution, mental health, medical and victim advocacy — to all work together to conduct joint forensic interviews and make team decisions about the investigation, treatment, management and prosecution of child abuse cases.

Ray of Hope serves families in Washington, Nowata and Osage counties as well as southern Kansas.

For more information about the Hope Floats Campaign or Ray of Hope Advocacy Center, visit

To report concern for a child, please call the OKDHS Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline at 1-800-522-3511.