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Camille Gordon

Camille Gordon in the children’s play area at the Hope of East Central Illinois facility.

After working in the restaurant business for several years, Camille Gordon wanted to do more to help people in need.

Today, she is the children’s advocate for Hope of East Central Illinois, working with kids who have been victims of abuse or with children of victims of domestic violence. Currently, Gordon is working with 54 children in Coles and six area counties.

“I just wanted to help people and help them get where they want to be and should be,” she said of getting into this field.

She left the restaurant business, enrolled at Lake Land College and then at Eastern Illinois University.

“In school, I wanted to research domestic violence. There are so many factors that go into it – emotional, verbal and physical abuse,” she said.

She studied, finished a degree and then got a job as a data entry clerk at Hope of East Central Illinois.

“When a position opened up, I was hired,” she said.

She has been full-time at Hope for almost 10 years. In addition, she has taught classes on domestic violence at Lake Land for eight years.

She works with children who are in homes where domestic violence has occurred.

“I go to the schools and do individual counseling,” she said. “We bring some of them here after school. They do their homework, have a snack and we take them home.”

She also works with kids whose mothers may be in counseling with domestic violence issues.

Included in the activities is Hope’s own 4-H club for children in their program which Gordon leads.

Dustha Wahls nominated Gordon for the 20 Under 40 selection.

“I was on the Charleston Community Day Care Board with Camille for three years (2010-2013). During this time, she volunteered to be vice president of the group. Camille works with the parent/teacher committee to get that started again. Camille also served on the personnel committee with me to update job descriptions. She also assisted with annual fundraisers for the day care,” Wahls said.

Gordon was also active in the Junior Women’s Club prior to it disbanding, Wahls added, and she was instrumental in helping gather items that Wahls needed to start a Girl Scout troop.

“I think that Camille is an excellent role model for children and an asset to our community,” she said.

Wahls said she enjoys being there for the children.

“Just the look on the kids’ faces, I want to be a re-occurring factor in their lives,” she said. “I want to be someone that they see over and over again and can trust.”

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Her reward?

“Knowing that you made a difference in their lives and that they are able to smile,” she said. “You see the look from Day 1 and sometimes they are terrified. But they get used to you and know you are going to be there for them.

“They have a big weight on their shoulders and they slump down,” she said. “But over time, you see that weight lift and they are smiling.”

She said children are pretty good at knowing when the relationship between their mom and dad changes through domestic violence.

“Parents think their kids don’t know, but they know it whether they actually see (abuse occur) or not because of their parents’ behavior and body language,” she said. “They see mom cry or act different, or they see their dad mad.”

It can cause behavior issues in kids, even if they are afraid to act out at home.

“If they can’t act out at home because of abuse, they might act out at school because it’s a ‘safe’ place,” she said. It’s something that she said she tries to teach school administrators and teachers.

Gordon said relationships between men and women have improved over the years, “but we still have some of these defined roles in our heads.”

“The only way we can end (domestic violence) is to make it everybody’s business,” she said. “Be aware of the signs of abuse and make sure you’re willing to help and support the victim. Be there for them.”

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Bill Lair is former managing editor of the JG-TC.

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