Mary Martinez, interim director of Lily Pad, left, speaks to Georgia first lady Sandra Deal about the Albany facility as Jason Dunn, a member of the Lily Pad board looks on. Deal toured the Lily Pad Tuesday with a group from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. (Staff Photo: Jim West)
ALBANY — Sandra Deal, wife of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, paid a visit Tuesday to the Lily Pad, an Albany-based non-profit advocacy organization for victims of sexual and physical assault.
With her came an entourage from the Governor’s Office for Children and Families in Atlanta, including Katie Jo Ballard, executive director, and Hayley Howell, GOSF government affairs liaison.
The purpose of the visit, said Mary Martinez, interim director of the Lily Pad, was to tour the facilities at 320 W. Second Ave. The Georgia First Lady said the group was in town for a tour of a similar facility at MCLB-Albany, and took the opportunity to view the Lily Pad — especially since both locations receive substantial grant funding from GOCF.
“Mrs Deal is a child advocate herself,” Martinez said, “and especially since we receive grants through the governor’s office, we believe it’s important to show her what a day in the life of an advocate or forensic interviewer is like.”
Deal and her group were shown through each service area of the Lily Pad facility, including an area where children who may be victims of sexual abuse are encouraged to indicate their possible assault through the use of anatomically correct dolls. The interviews are video recorded for possible later use in court, Martinez said. Deal also had a look at the examination room where possible forensic evidence is collected.
“The problems Georgia face are in every other state,” Deal told the Lily Pad staff. “We may not stop (the problems) completely, but for many years we didn’t know much about it. I taught school and it was in my later years of teaching that they finally started teaching us about the physical and sexual abuse. I’m sure that children passed by me and I didn’t pick up on the problems. I wish I knew years ago what I know now. We’re thrilled that you all are working so hard.”
According to Lily Pad material, the facility began in 2006 and continues to provide, at no charge to victims, “developmentally appropriate ” specialized services to meet the distinctive needs of individuals impacted by crimes of sexual violence. Services are provided over a 30-county area, and are funded through a combination of grants and individual donations, Lily Pad officials say. During the tour, Deal seemed particularly impressed that Lily Pad staff and volunteers respond to victims at any time of the day or night — not the case for some similar advocacies in the state, she said.
“Any time we see a victim, we keep up with that child until their case is adjudicated,” Martinez said. “Whether that child comes here for a forensic interview or a sexual assault examination — and even after that.”
“I’m very impressed with the program,” Deal said. “Reports are just numbers and papers. There’s just something about being physically present that gives you a peace about it, to know what you need to do to help and what you need to do to share the information with others and help them be more creative. When we share best practices we can improve the situation for more people. That’s our goal.”