Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear did not come "empty-handed" in his first official visit to Paducah after being elected last November.
"This is not just the first stop on the first trip that I've been able to take to western Kentucky as your new governor. This is the first award I've been able to present statewide," he said, in announcing a $360,000 grant for Lotus, an advocacy and support center for survivors of assault and abuse.
The Community Development Block Grant funds, which McCracken County Fiscal Court members applied for on behalf of Lotus, will further the agency's efforts in healing and recovery for survivors of sexual assault and child abuse.
Specifically, the grant will be used to purchase 2.2 acres of land adjacent to the agency's existing facility for the creation of an outdoor preserve.
"You guys are doing God's work," the governor told the assembled crowd of staff, volunteers and board members.
"Oftentimes people come to you at their lowest moments, broken, not necessarily believing that the pieces can be put back together. But every day you come ready to help those that are in need. Every day you help the lost and the lonely and the left behind become the found, the friended and the included.
"This work is so important because every time one of these crimes happens to an adult, or especially to a child, it is a failure of society," he said. "We have to take responsibility. Getting that child or that adult back to a place of wholeness, of healing is absolutely critical and I thank you for your very, very good work."
McCracken County Judge-Executive Craig Clymer thanked the governor for his support in helping victims of abuse get the resources they need.
"There's irony here that we celebrate that we have such a nice facility, with such great counselors," Clymer said."But we regret that we need to have it, that there is this problem that we have to deal with, not just in our community but across the commonwealth.
"And, so I want to have the 65,000 residents of McCracken County, and also those surrounding counties that are also served by this institution, thank the governor for being here with us."
Lori Wells Brown, Lotus executive director, also acknowledged the importance of the support of the local community.
"None of this would be possible without the community leaders, partners and members who are here today," she said.
"We are having more success than ever before in every component of our Lotus mission, intervention, prevention, education, and none of that would be possible not only with your support, but with your engagement."
According to Brown, Lotus expects to serve over 1,600 survivors of all ages and families, which is approximately 175 percent more survivors than Lotus was serving just five years ago.
"We know that it's not because more abuse is happening. It's because more people are aware of services," she said. "There are more people who know how to recognize and get kids and adult survivors to the services they need. So this is very positive."
According to Brown, the outdoor preserve is designed to promote health outcomes by fostering enhanced tranquility and therapeutic spaces through the development of green spaces throughout the Lotus campus.
"The project offers opportunities for nature, engagement, safety and a sense of control, which is so important for victims, social support and exercise," she said.
Beshear made a point to, in addition to thanking Clymer and Dennis Keene, the state's Department for Local Government commissioner, acknowledge the support of the previous governor.
"I want to make sure I thank the last administration, because while this is a priority of mine, it was also a priority of theirs, this specific project," he said.
"It shows just because you have a change in administration, or even the party that the person belongs to, it doesn't change what's right is right."