Terrie Hess Center hosts Food Truck Fest to close out Child Abuse Prevention Month

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023

SALISBURY — For the third straight year, the Terrie Hess Child Advocacy Center hosted a Food Truck Festival as a fundraiser to close out National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which occurs every April.

Food trucks lined the center’s parking lot giving supporters a number of different options to chow down on this past Saturday. People were lining up to order and lounging in the shade to escape the sun, all while Murphy, the center’s therapy dog, excitedly ran around visiting and seeing if anyone would slip him a small bite to eat.

“We want to let people know who we are, where we are located and what services we provide without it being very serious, so that’s why we love events like this,” said Ariella Sanchez, the center’s operations coordinator, who has helped plan the food truck fest for the last three years. “We want to create an experience when you’re coming out, so all these trucks coming from outside of Salisbury and a little further. Just things that are a little different and unique so you can come here and get to experience something fun.”

“We want to surround our community. We want to be that resource center for our kids and families,” Sanchez said.

The food trucks included: Mambo on Ruedas, The Old 97 Kettlecorn Company, Katie’s Snack Shack, Mason’s Sweet Shoppe and Taco Bros.

“We certainly support any child advocacy center and any money that goes to them is great,” said Tanya Freirich, who was attending the food truck festival with her husband and two kids.

Erin Moody, the prevention and education coordinator and the therapy dog handler, used to work for Rowan County Child Protective Services as a foster care worker before she got the job at the Terrie Hess Center in 2019. She said having events like the food truck fest is important because it helps shed the perception that child abuse is something people shouldn’t talk about. Her favorite part of the job is watching the kids progress throughout their time at the center.

“I love meeting kids for the first time on a tough day and a tough season of life and then seeing them eight months later at our summer camp and listening to their laughs and cut up and do art projects,” Moody said.

In 2022, the center conducted 250 forensic interviews, which are interviews designed for children who are experiencing abuse or neglect. This year, the center is already on track to surpass that and have conducted over 700 therapy sessions since January, according to Shawn Edman the center’s executive director. When asked why he thinks there has been such an increase, Edman said the end of the pandemic and the current economy have played a huge role.

“COVID and the economy right now has just been hard on so many families and it builds up this aggression in parents and other adults and their easiest outlet is their kids,” Edman said. That’s something else we’re working — what do we have for parents, what do we have for adults to help them, so when they’re frustrated they have alternatives so they don’t hurt little kids.”

To help with the increase in cases, they are opening a second facility focused mainly on mental health and also hiring another therapist.

Edman said the center is focusing on building programs and educating kids to be more aware of when they are in a difficult situation. One of these new programs is called “Stop Go Tell” and teaches kids how to identify unsafe situations and what they should do.

He also said he and his team have bigger events on the horizon. In August, they are starting a mentorship program with the help of Broadway entertainers for LGBTQ+ children. They are hosting a fundraiser called “Standing Room Only” featuring local acts and performers from Broadway who will put on a show to raise money.

“Kids are so different and we want to meet them where they’re at. We want to have all the programs we can possibly have for every child because want to help every single kid we can,” Edman said.