JOPLIN, Mo. — An area nonprofit, that helps kids who’ve been abused, is celebrating a special occasion. The Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri is officially 25-years old.

Members of the Center’s current staff, along with several former executive director’s and founding and current board members gathered at the facility today to cut a ribbon on the accomplishment.

Betty cagle was the original executive director in 1997 when the center sat across from Freeman Health System. It was made possible by the Health System’s former President Gary Duncan, who provided the original office space.

Cagle says Center employees have changed over the last 25-years, but the goal has remained the same.

“We still have investigators that are so focused on what they’re doing and fully focused on the children and the families, nurturing, loving, caring, you can feel it when you walk in,” said Cagle.

“It happened quite by accident on a day I saw Phil Garvin walk toward my office, didn’t stop, came in like a tornado, and told me that of the Children’s Center and said, “You need to get them a place. They’ve got work to do, we’ve got to work, we need to work with the children,” said Gary Duncan, Freeman Health System Dir., Emeritus.

“In 2016, we started offering trauma focussed therapy for our child victims, and really the important piece behind that is we’re offering that as a free service to the families and it’s really helping those children process that trauma, deal with that trauma, understand it’s not their fault they were abused and really help them find that hope and healing they’re looking for,” said Matt Stewart, Exec. Dir., Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri.

The organization has provided services to over 20,000 children since opening.

It has 4 locations — Joplin, Nevada, Monett, and Butler.