As the only one-stop destination for families of juvenile victims of physical or sexual abuse, Newark-based Wynona's House is centering end-of-summer efforts on sending kids back to classes with the supplies — and frame of mind — they need to succeed.

School, backpack, back
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"They know when they're here, they're safe," said Carol Berger, Wynona's House chief program officer. "They're with other families that have come through the system, and through our center."

The organization, officially known as the Senator Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center, in honor of the late New Jersey state legislator, brings together Essex County prosecutors, child welfare agents, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital all in one place to assist in investigations of child abuse and neglect.

At the heart of the group's mission is to promote hope, healing, and justice for victims. By combining these sundry components in one location, Wynona's House reduces the number of times a child has to tell and relive his or her story of abuse, cutting down on the trauma and stigma of the experience.

To further help the kids it serves, Wynona's House is sponsoring a back-to-school barbecue on Aug. 20 for families connected with the center. The event, which is closed to the public, will not only provide free food but also age-appropriate backpacks, filled with the proper school supplies for each individual child, and educational games and activities.

"Many families that we've identified may have some tough times getting their children ready for the return of school, and getting prepared," said Dominic Prophete, Wynona's House chief executive officer.

There are academic and emotional reasons as well.

"Children who experience trauma are not as likely to do as well in school, so what we try to do is level the playing field," Berger said.

Wynona's House, operating now more than 15 years, is always looking for ways to help with possible housing, clothing, and preparations for kids to do well in school. The organization is often in need of supplies like canned food and toiletries. To find out how you can help, call 973-753-1165 or 973-753-1110, or visit

Patrick Lavery produces "New Jersey's First News" and is New Jersey 101.5's morning drive breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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