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Junior League refreshes butterfly garden at Child Protection Center

Melissa Douberly searches for weeds in the dirt.
Melissa Douberly searches for weeds in the dirt.
Photo by Ian Swaby
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As the Child Protection Center was established by Junior League of Sarasota in 1978, attendees at the replanting of its butterfly garden found it fitting that the league should be the one to refresh the site.

Over a decade ago, the Junior League, a group of women focused on advancing women’s leadership and on volunteering in the community, had established the garden. 

However, it had fallen into disrepair over time and on Feb. 3, a group of volunteers could be found removing weeds from the ground, pressure washing certain components, setting in new plants and more over the course of the day.

The butterfly garden plays a role in the mission of the center, said Elizabeth Topp, capital campaign manager for the CPC, and serves as a metaphor of helping to spread wings.

“We're really excited to be able to partner with (Junior League of Sarasota) to do a refresh and get it alive again,” she said.

Serving children in Sarasota and DeSoto counties, the nonprofit focuses on the prevention, intervention and treatment of child abuse in the community.

Topp said a child is abused every 19 minutes in the state of Florida while the center responds to about 3,200 cases a year in Sarasota County alone. She noted that only about 80% of abuse gets reported.

Plants were donated by Florida Native Plants Nursery & Landscaping and Troy’s Tropics
Photo by Ian Swaby

Some of the work the center performs includes working directly with law enforcement in child abuse cases and offering supervised visitation for children and families, as well as offering its newest component, Hanna’s Hope, which serves adult victims of child abuse who have never received treatment. 

Its prevention program is the longest tenured prevention program in the state, and offers education throughout the community, primarily in schools.

Topp said as children arrive at the facility, they are beginning on a journey of hope and healing and are inside a cocoon, working to set healthy boundaries, establish self-confidence and remove shame and guilt.

In fact, the garden is set to also feature the addition of a butterfly mural by Alissa Silvers of Liss Art Design.

“Every time they enter our facility, it's just a little reminder that your story is not over. We're here to help you fly and soar when you're ready,” she said of the garden.

Stacey Crawford, chair of the Junior League’s Done-in-a-Day (DIAD) Committee, said the CPC aligns with the specific focus of Sarasota’s Junior League branch, which is helping children who are aging out of foster care.

“(The Child Protection Center is) obviously very integral in everything that happens there,” she said.

The CPC and Junior League were not the only organizations to contribute to the project; Florida Native Plants Nursery & Landscaping and Troy’s Tropics also donated all plants, soil, shells and mulch. Additionally, volunteers installed a collection of rocks painted by different clients, donors and community members.

Jennifer Masters rakes the soil.
Photo by Ian Swaby

Also at work in the garden that morning was the CPC's executive director, Doug Staley.

“I just can't say enough is what Junior League has done as an organization, because it's not just the Child Protection Center – they have helped establish and found and support so many nonprofits in this community,” he said.

The youngest volunteer that day was Quinn Mulligan, 9, who is in her third year of volunteering with the league. She said she enjoys cleaning up and often does so after her family's meals. 

"She's got such a good heart," said her mother Rae Mulligan, noting that her daughter was eager to come out to help as soon as she heard about the opportunity. 

In the future, a group of CPC volunteers will perform regular maintenance on the garden. 

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the name of Florida Native Plants Nursery & Landscaping.



Ian Swaby

Ian Swaby is the Sarasota neighbors writer for the Observer. Ian is a Florida State University graduate of Editing, Writing, and Media and previously worked in the publishing industry in the Cayman Islands.

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