AT&T donated $2,000 to Secret Safe Place of Tennessee during a brief ceremony Dec. 17 at the organization’s business office in Maryville.
Executive director Shannon McCloud said AT&T has supported Secret Safe Place for several years but this was different. “This year they’ve doubled their donation, which is significant in this economy,” she said.
McCloud said Secret Safe Place of Tennessee educates young women about the Safe Haven Law that allows them to bring their baby to a designated location in a certain amount of time instead of abandoning it.
“We were one of the first 20 states to have a Safe Haven Law,” State Sen. Doug Overbey said.
The senators said an incident in Townsend in which a teen mother hid her pregnancy from family members before she had the baby and subsequently abandoned it in a shed galvanized the community to work toward a Safe Haven Law in Tennessee.
“Shawna McConnell and Lisa Yount mobilized and joined with others in getting the law passed in 2001. We passed the law but didn’t fund the mechanism to spread the word in the community,” Overbey said. “Lisa and Shawna created the state-wide organization with the purpose of educating lawmakers and young women.”
Overbey praised McCloud for how she has worked with other communities around the state to spread news about the Safe Haven Law. “That was a watershed moment when they hired Shannon. She travels state-wide finding local organizations in each county. These health departments and hospitals didn’t know their obligation if a young woman brought a baby in. She created a pack of information on what they have to do,” he said.
McCloud said 36 babies have been saved since the law was enacted in Tennessee in 2004. “That’s a lot of babies. We try to be proactive and educate them before they get to the point of panicking,” she said.
Alan Hill, regional director of external affairs, said even if just one child were saved, that was what mattered. Helping organizations like Secret Safe Place is important to AT&T, Hill said.
“We look forward to opportunities to do good things in the community,” he said. “We’ve invested $2.4 million in Tennessee in different gifts through foundations and we also do a lot of volunteer work,” he said.
Hill said there are about 650 AT&T employees in this area and AT&T provides about 80 of telephone access to the area.
Overbey praised AT&T for helping the organization. “AT&T has always been a supporter of Secret Safe Place and we are very appreciative,” he said.