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Pinwheels are planted in front of Lompoc City Hall for Child Abuse Awareness Month on Monday. Organizers say each of the 132 pinwheels represents 1 in 5 children suspected of being abused in the local area.

For the third straight year, a group of child welfare advocates “planted” pinwheels in front of Lompoc City Hall on Monday to commemorate April being Child Abuse Awareness Month.

Representatives of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center were joined by elected Lompoc officials and other community members Monday morning to kick off one of the center’s largest awareness campaigns. The group installed 132 pinwheels in the Civic Center Plaza between City Hall and the Lompoc Police Department headquarters, with each one meant to represent five cases that were investigated by Child Welfare Services in the Lompoc Valley over the past year.

“It is our hope that with this visual campaign of spinning pinwheels, people will not only stop to take notice of what child abuse is, but what it looks like and how to treat and prevent such occurrences in our communities by reaching out to us and our many partners,” said Alison Wales, the associate director of the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center.

The pinwheels are meant to represent the innocence of youth.

Similar pinwheel planting events are scheduled for other North County communities this week.

The Rape Crisis Center is planning to “plant” 266 pinwheels during a ceremony scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at 2125 S. Centerpointe Parkway in Santa Maria, and, thanks to a partnership with People Helping People in the Santa Ynez Valley, will plant about 132 more at 8:30 a.m. Friday at the Veterans Memorial Building in Solvang, located at 1745 Mission Drive.

The campaign is supported by a grant from First 5 Santa Barbara County, an organization that “supports the health, early learning and well-being of children prenatal through age 5 and their families,” according to its website, first5santabarbaracounty.org. It is being promoted by the local Child Abuse Prevention Council, of which the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center is a member.

The Monday morning ceremony in Lompoc was attended by about 50 people, including Lompoc Mayor Bob Lingl, Lompoc City Councilwoman Jenelle Osborne and a representative of 3rd District County Supervisor Joan Hartmann.

Other awareness events planned by the North County Rape Crisis and Child Protection Center for this month include the 11th annual Tip-An-Advocate event from 5 to 8 p.m. April 17 at Tom’s Burgers, 115 E. College Ave. in Lompoc, and a “1 in 6” live music and mixer program scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. April 19 at the Bottlest Winery, Bar and Bistro, located at 5 Industrial Way in Buellton.

For the Tip-An-Advocate event, Rape Crisis Center staff, volunteers and board members will serve food with the goal of raising tips, while the Buellton mixer will feature a live performance from singer-songwriter Kailey Stevens.

“Our communities, our county (are) fortunate to have agencies that want to teach and prevent abuse to all ages,” Wales said.

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Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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