Coffee County Children's Advocacy Center’s history goes back to 2004, when it was founded by a group of local activists with the Coffee County Church Women United. In June of 2005, Coffee County CAC officially opened its doors to serve children who have experienced severe abuse.
Bonnie Watts, of Tullahoma, is one of the founders. Thanks to her vision for helping children in need, Coffee County CAC became a reality. Watts and her husband moved to Tennessee from Nevada about 20 years ago and made Tullahoma their home. She has always volunteered, helping organizations that improve the community.
In the early 2000s, Watts saw a need in our community for an organization focusing on child abuse intervention and prevention. After talking with her friends who worked with the Department of Children’s Services, she decided to study the issue and look for opportunities to support children who have experienced abuse. She read several articles on the topic and “was appalled,” she said. Watts learned about children’s advocacy centers in other communities and decided to establish a center in Coffee County.
“I belong to Church Women United and I said, ‘We can do this here. Let’s start a children’s advocacy center.’ And we did,” Watts recalled.
She contacted state-level experts and completed various types of training to gain knowledge about the issue. She met with local professionals, who would later become the first members of the Child Protective Investigative Team. CPIT is the multidisciplinary team of the Coffee County CAC, with members meeting monthly to discuss every severe child physical abuse case and child sexual abuse case reported in Coffee County. Many of the initial CPIT members still serve on the team today.
After launching Coffee County CAC, Watts served on the center’s board of directors for 10 years. Today, she continues to stay informed about the center’s work.
“It thrills me to see the center’s positive impact on the community,” Watts said. “I still keep contact with (Executive Director) Joyce Prusak.”
Watts encouraged the community to support the center “because it’s the future of our children.”
“This is what we are working for – our children,” Watts said. “They need help, they deserve help, and the center makes a difference for these children.”
Watts received the inaugural Melissa Johnson Children’s Champion Award on Apr. 21, 2022.