LACKAWANNA COUNTY, Pa. — The Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania along Mulberry Street in Scranton, with its distinctive pink door, is the house that Mary Ann LaPorta built.
LaPorta is the center's first and so far only executive director, but her tenure ends in mid-October after 20 years on the job.
"I have no idea where the time went, I feel like we just started, but 20 years ago, we were located at the nursing school at CMC. It was three little rooms at the base of the elevator, which is a really tough spot for confidentiality," said Mary Ann LaPorta.
The organization has grown from three small rooms to three buildings along Mulberry Street, where children of all ages can go when they are abused.
The CAC uses a model focused on therapy that was foreign to this area when LaPorta helped start the center.
"What has changed enormously, and it's very good news, is the community support. The community awareness of child abuse, the community support, their part in changing this crimes against children phenomenon."
The CAC staff is on the front line of every child abuse or neglect case in Lackawanna County. 20 years of it could wear anyone down, but LaPorta is known for her infectious positivity.
"When a child is healed, a community is healed, so we have to keep up the good work."
LaPorta will stay on part-time for a few months to help her replacement, then on to a well-earned retirement.
"I think my excitement is in the fact that there will be personal freedom. I've really dedicated myself to this mission, this model, this child advocacy center, as my fifth child."
Her four children and eight grandchildren will be her focus now. She's been an advocate for more than 17,000 children over the course of her career.
So, we give a 16 Salute to Mary Ann LaPorta.