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$20,000 GRANT WARMS PROVO CHILDREN'S HOME

The Utah County Children's Justice Center can now officially call its home in south Provo, home.

The center received a $20,000 grant Tuesday from the national Ronald McDonald Children's Charities in Oak Brook, Ill. The grant will be packaged with a $10,000 grant the center received a few months ago from the Intermountain Area branch of the Ronald McDonald Children's Charities to pay off the remaining mortgage on the restored home."The home itself is an entire donation from the community," said Laura Blanchard, chairwoman of the Utah County Child Abuse Council.

When the council purchased the home at 115 E. 300 South two years ago, it was rundown and hardly fit to be occupied. Officials liked the home, however, because of its central location.

Hundreds of volunteers quickly joined forces to remodel the old home. Local contractors, businesses, church and youth groups donated labor, materials and money to complete the renovation. Now the house is one of the finest restored buildings in Provo. "This is not one person's effort. This is many persons' effort," Blanchard said.

The justice center provides a homelike atmosphere for families and children who are victims of physical or sexual abuse. It's designed to make children feel safe and unthreatened when being interviewed by authorities. A team at the center coordinates all interviews with attorneys, police and social workers, and assesses the support services the child or family needs. Since January, 345 children have used the center.

Janet and Dennis Hall, owners of two McDonald's restaurants in Provo, played a key role in gaining the grants. When the Halls lived in Salt Lake City a few years ago they sheltered many battered and abused children.

"We had more than 200 kids come through our home and we saw firsthand how difficult it was on them to be carted off to the police station, prosecutor's office and the courthouse," Janet Hall said.

The Ronald McDonald Children's Charities is funded with donations made at McDonald's restaurants nationwide and with proceeds from special promotions. The Halls said it is appropriate that money that comes from children and families is returned to help children and families.

The Utah County Children's Justice Center is one of three in the state. Salt Lake and Weber counties also have centers. The centers operate on state and federal grants and have an annual budget of about $180,000. The Utah County Children's Justice Center has four full-time employees and more than a dozen volunteers.