PACF dinner focuses on childhood trauma

VIENNA — Childhood trauma, including abuse, family dysfunction and neglect, can have a lifelong impact and effect on children, including those impacted by the current substance abuse epidemic in West Virginia.

Kathy Szafran, with Crittenton Services, spoke Friday at the Parkersburg Area Community Foundation and its Regional Affiliates (PACF) Annual Meeting at Grand Pointe Conference Center. Nearly 200 supporters attended the luncheon meeting, which officially opened PACF’s 57th year of service.

Szafran, MA, LPC, has over 25 years of behavioral health experience encompassing senior level management, program and policy development. She holds a master’s degree from WVU and is a Licensed Professional Counselor with a certification in Traumatic Stress Studies from the Trauma Center at the Justice Resource Center.

On Friday, she talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences affecting children and the need for trauma-informed care early in childhood to help children learn how to be resilient.

Szafran said much of the discussion today regarding children in connection with substance use refers to the legacy being created by the opioid epidemic, but she doesn’t believe “legacy” is the correct term for the situation.

“What we are seeing is collateral damage … children being affected long term,” she said.

Children with adverse experiences learn to react in what she called “survival mode,” either by fight, flight or freezing. The goal is to get children from survivor thinking — just reacting to a situation — to learning how to think through situations. It doesn’t always require counselors or other professionals.

“Anyone can have a positive impact on children,” she said.

PACF Executive Director Judy Sjostedt and Cynthia Brown, board chairman, announced year-end results and recognitions during the meeting. Sjostedt said one interesting act was that in 1964 — one year after PACF’s founding — the organization made $2,000 in community grants. In its 2019 fiscal year just ended, it awarded $2.4 million in grants and scholarships.

Among the 2019 accomplishments: PACF employed 24 local young people in its regional Civic Leaders Fellowship Program, designed to improve their ability to make connections and to find good jobs; awarded 266 scholarships worth nearly $331,000 to students needing educational aid; and hosted Give Local MOV 2019, an online-giving campaign, delivering $362,000 for 50 area nonprofits in 24 hours.

Also at Friday’s meeting, three area organizations to which the PACF has made grants spoke about their efforts to address the needs of the children they serve and described how their young clientele are being affected by adverse childhood experiences, including the substance use of family members. Speakers were Cathy Grewe of Wood County Schools; Margaret Burdette of Voices for Children-Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA); and Ben Shuman of the Boys and Girls Club of Parkersburg.

“Our community’s children are our future; as their fates go, so goes the fate of our communities and our state,” Sjostedt said. “For tomorrow’s communities to be prosperous, we need our children to thrive today.”

She noted that one of the key roles of community foundations is to provide information and to work to develop resources to address the community’s most pressing issues. PACF is continuing to build its “Fund for Recovery,” to serve as a dedicated resource for organizations that meet the needs of individuals whose lives are affected by substance use disorders, she said.

She urged public support for the new Fund for Recovery. Gifts can be mailed separately to PACF, P.O. Box 1762, Parkersburg, WV 26102. For more information, contact PACF at 304-428-4438 or info@pacfwv.com.

PACF has several programs open to applications at this time. To learn more about its grants, scholarships and other initiatives or to make online gifts, see pacfwv.com. PACF serves Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Mason, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties in West Virginia and Washington County in Ohio.

Wayne Towner can be reached at wtowner@newsandsentinel.com