A Letter from Lt. Bill Walsh (Retired), DCAC Co-founder
When I think back to the early days of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center I remember feeling a constant sense of awe that this dream, which a few people initially shared for improving how our community responded to child abuse, was actually becoming a reality. Even today when I go to the Center, see it mentioned in the media, or think about what a great job it does, I am amazed that it really did come to pass.
The Center would have never started without my partner in this effort Lynn Cartsunis. We worked very well as a team, convincing anybody that would listen that we needed a Children's Advocacy Center in Dallas and getting them to join us in this endeavor. One day we had the opportunity to address the Dallas County Youth Services Advisory Board and as luck would have it, Caren Prothro heard us that day. Caren was the first person that heard about the idea for a Center and actually took steps to help. She discussed the idea, offered suggestions and then arranged a meeting for us with her good friend Ruth Altshuler. Things really clicked when Ruth decided to join our efforts.
I remember going to visit 3611 Swiss Avenue for the first time. At the time, it was owned and occupied by the Swiss Avenue Counseling Center and the property was for sale. It was perfect for what we wanted, and after leaving we called Ruth to tell her about the building. She knew exactly which building it was because she remembered as a little girl passing the house on Swiss Avenue on her way downtown. Ruth told us to tell the owners of the property that we would buy it. It cannot be emphasized enough here that we did not have the more than $600,000 that the building cost when we made this decision. It is a great story that Ruth tells about this conversation and Dr. Altshuler pointing out to her that she had just committed to coming up with over $600,000! Talk about faith.
About this time a casual acquaintance of mine who worked at City Hall told me about federal funding available through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. He knew about our efforts to start the Center and thought this would be a good fit. Leigh Ann Lozano, from the Dallas Police Department, worked furiously with Lynn and me to write the CDBG Grant. This was actually the first grant we had ever written and we did it in a week's time. Janie McGarr and her mother, Annette Strauss, the mayor of Dallas at the time, along with the efforts of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center League and others were instrumental in helping us receive the CDBG funding.
After we purchased the building we actually tried to renovate it ourselves. There were so many volunteers, spouses, family members, DPD detectives and others working on the Center.
I have very fond memories of the day the Center formally opened, even though it was raining very hard by evening time. If memory serves me correctly, we actually interviewed a little girl at the Center before the formal opening. Her mother's boyfriend had victimized her. I don't remember any of the details but I do know that he was later convicted for the abuse. That little girl, whose name is forever lost, would be the first of many children to be helped by the Center.
I will be forever grateful to the many people who served as staff, volunteers, DCAC League members, Board members and supporters of the Center since its start. Thousands of children who have passed though the Center's doors have benefited from their efforts.
Lt. Bill Walsh (Retired)
Co-founder of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center