January 25, 2002 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

The Mount Emily Safe Center is working to trim costs and serve its young clients in the face of an income loss of $30,000.

The center is getting ready for its second annual fund-raising winter luau.

The center, housed in an upstairs office at the Union Family Health Clinic, has run out of funding from the original grant. That grant helped the center become a safe place for juvenile victims of sexual abuse. The grant also helped their families deal with medical, law enforcement, legal interviews, and what can be drawn-out prosecution in bringing justice to the victim and the perpetrator.

The search is on for more grant funding and donations. But the center sees no end for the need for its services.

According to Sue Arnoldus, the centers director, the number of children being helped at the center rose 28 percent during 2001.

In 2000, the center worked with 63 new clients. Last year, the number of new cases rose to 85.

Arnoldus said it is hard to determine why the numbers are increasing. Perhaps adults are doing a better job of reporting suspected child abuse. Perhaps children are learning younger that they should tell trusted adults that they are being abused. And perhaps law enforcement officers and the state Department of Human Services are being more effective.

No one, Arnoldus said, is completely sure of the reason. But its happening.

I know the district attorneys office is impressed by what weve been able to do, Arnoldus said. But its sort of a chicken and egg thing: nobody knows if theres more abuse, or more reporting of the abuse. Its really hard to get a handle on it.

The cases of abuse coming to the safe centers attention cases that are drawing legal action in Union County have a depth of abuse that is just nauseating, Arnoldus says.

While the work at the center goes on, the second annual luau from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 9 will be a way to help support the center during an evening of food, fun, silent auction and raffle.

The Mount Emily Safe Center and Daniels Chapel of the Valley sponsor the evening. The event is also a fund-raiser for the Eastern Oregon University Navigators Club, which provides the meal, the entertainment and the traditional Micronesian live music.

And the grass skirts for those whod like to try their dancing skills.

This year, we want to meet and exceed what we did last year, Arnoldus said.

With that in mind, the evening is being planned to be much the same as last year, although in a bigger space in Hoke Center 309 on the EOU campus.

Tickets are available for the Winter Luau for $15 per person at Sunflower Books, the EOU Bookstore, the safe center at the clinic building in Union, at the Union Market and at Joe & Sugars in La Grande.

A vacation to the beaches of the islands may not be in your winter plans this year. Arnoldus, though, suggests that an evening at the luau isnt a bad substitute.

Its a great program, she promises.

Reach T.L. Petersen at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it