Sunday, October 23, 2016

It takes a village

It takes a village….
Crittenton Centers depends on so many volunteers to help us continue our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families. We have over 2200 volunteers each year providing so many services to children and families such as: rocking babies in the Crisis Nursery, reading to children in classrooms, grounds maintenance on over 2 acres, tending to our community garden, and our special events. 

We are blessed with an amazing volunteer team leading up every detail of the Festival of Trees. I am always humbled by the amount of time, energy, and creativity each volunteer gives to make the Festival of Trees a magical experience for all who attend.  

The design team starts creating designs and purchasing ornaments for the over 80 beautifully designed trees over a year before the event.   We need volunteers the week prior to the event to help with setting-up the event, decoration of some of the trees, fluffing of the trees, and logistics.

The Jingle & Mingle pre-view cocktail party is the first view of the amazing designs, perfectly selected wines, beers, hour devours, deserts, musicians, and the perfect jewelry to raffle off for the evening.  We need volunteers to help us set the room for the event.

Senior Day is crafted with the generosity of a local artist performance, our very own pre-k class performance, bingo with prizes, a Holiday Market Place and a Snack Shop.  We need volunteers to help with giving our prizes, cookies, and coffee.

Girl Scout Evening is a fun, educational evening where girl scouts can earn a badge while making a craft, going on a scavenger hunt, and learning a new dance.   We need volunteers to help troops go through each station of fun. 

Brunch and Bubbly is a designer event where Amy Morgan from Le Fleur will present on how to design your tablescape for thanksgiving and Christmas.  We need volunteers to help serve the guests during the event.

Saturday is Family Fun Day with Santa, Live Entertainment including Abbey from Communication Junction, Singsations, Madrigals, Captivation Dance by Kaleigh, and Wildlife Prairie Park.  All admissions include opportunities to make crafts, scavenger hunt, games, and balloon by Unique Twist.  We need volunteers to help children enjoy the games, make crafts, and help our live performers.

Sunday is the final day to make bids on the trees with live performances, Avanti’s Family Lunch and a Sugar Plum Fairy Sweet Sundae Tea.  We need volunteer willing to dress up in the elf costumes to lead our little fairies and nutcrackers on their adventure.  We need volunteers to help with crafts, games, raffles, set-up, and clean-up.   

Stocking Stuffer Store is open December 2-18th at the Northwoods Mall and The Shoppes at Grand Prairie.  The volunteers make this event special for each child who has the opportunity to shop. We need volunteers to serve as personal shoppers to help find their family members gifts on a budget approved by their parents.  Each child works with a volunteer to select the perfect gift for their parents, siblings, and friends.
It takes a village of volunteers to make this holiday season a gift for all.  Thanks to all of you who make our mission possible every day.
Please click the links if you would like to volunteer or share them with someone who would love to volunteer.  For more information go to
Sandy Garza

Development & Marketing Director

Friday, October 14, 2016

Teaching Gratitude

It is so hard to believe, but the holiday season is just around the corner.  Over the coming months, many of us will gather with our families to celebrate faith, culture, togetherness, freedom and times of thanksgiving.   Though people celebrate many different holidays in many different ways, a common thread that weaves together our quilt of diversity is GRATITUDE.

Such a simple word!  The official definition is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.  Such a simple word; yes, but a difficult mindset in which to live.  So, how do we teach our young children to grasp, express and live in this state of gratitude and thankfulness?  Here are a few tips for instilling the character quality of gratitude in our cherished little ones.

Start simply. Begin with the basics of “please” and “thank you” before children are even verbal.  Very young children take their social cues from the adults around them using their developing receptive language skills.  Teaching them, by modeling, that we say “please” to obtain and “thank you” after receiving introduces this concept of thankfulness in the most basic of ways.  For babies, who cannot express with words, consider teaching them basic signs for “please” and “thank you.”   Once children grasp this rudimentary social exchange, they can begin to conceptualize the more abstract concept of gratitude.


Model gratitude for your children.   Author Robert Fulghum has said, “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.”  Like it or not, children will learn their parents behaviors, actions and mindsets, both good and bad.  In personal daily routines, embed comments that express gratitude and thankfulness.  Continually model for children that we can be thankful at all times for good and bad things that come our way.   Even seemingly bad things can become unexpected blessings!

Food to eat...
Play the “I’m grateful for…” Game.  This can happen anywhere, at any time.  Take turns identifying with your child things you are thankful for.  This will give you an opportunity to teach your child different things you can be grateful for without taking it too seriously.  You could even try naming something you are thankful for to correspond to every letter of the alphabet.

Warm cozy home...

Deepen understanding of why we are grateful. Once your children have grasped the simple concept of what they are grateful and thankful for (a warm house, food to eat, etc.), help expand their understanding by explaining why we are grateful for things.  For example, I am thankful for this delicious meal because my body needs healthy food to grow strong.  Connecting these items will only further enhance their understanding of the complex character quality of gratitude. 

Read topic books together to teach the concept of gratitude. There are countless children’s books that help us teach character qualities such as gratitude and thankfulness to our children.   Often stories will stick with children, and can be referred to later in the day or week to reinforce this concept.   Looking for a place to start?  Try one or all of these great reads!

Rubber Shoes by Gladys Elizabeth Barbieri
·        I Am Special: Daily Gratitude and Affirmations for Children             by Ashton Jones
·        Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty
·        Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes
·        The Thanksgiving Door by Debbie Atwell
·        Thankfulness by Cynthia Amoroso

Thankfulness and gratitude are qualities that we all need to develop, and as parents, caregivers, role models, teachers, we must be extremely diligent to instill these qualities in the next generation.  We at Crittenton Centers are grateful for many things, so many that it’s a whole different story!  Look for my post on all the things we are grateful for on November 11th

Thankful and grateful for your continued support of Crittenton Centers,
Keri Hattan

Vice President and COO

Friday, October 7, 2016

Being on the Winning Team

Awe . . . fall, my favorite time of the year! I particularly love fall mornings, when the sky is a brilliant blue while contrasting against the changing colors of the leaves on the trees. For me, this is one of the most beautiful, picturesque view during the fall. Then, as you step outside and breathe in that first breath of crisp air. Awe . . . I love fall.

I also love fall because it is the pinnacle of baseball season. For those not familiar with baseball, it starts in February with pitchers and catchers reporting for Spring Training. The season consist of 162 games, with the first game taking place in early April and the last taking place in late September or early October. I have enjoyed baseball since I was a young child. Proof of that would be that even though my favorite team is not in the playoffs, I have yet to miss a game this postseason. By the end of October, there will be champion crowned and their fans will be celebrating vigorously. I have to admit, there is nothing quite like your team winning the World Series. There are a few factors that are necessary to win the World Series . . . great starting pitching, good defense, consistent hitting mixed with some power, a pitcher that can close out a game, loyal fans, and, let’s be honest, a little luck never hurts.
At this point you are probably thinking, I thought this was the Crittenton Centers blog. Well, it is, but there are many similarities between putting together a team that can win the World Series and the team at Crittenton Centers.

We have staff whose days begin early in the morning and often times run through the evening. Staff that work hard and are dedicated to our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families. They have committed themselves and their talents to fulfilling the mission because they believe that strong families build strong communities. In baseball, if you are .300+ hitter and hit 20+ home runs, then you are basically a star; so unlike baseball, we have staff that are much more proficient in their efforts to assist families that are at risk of abuse or neglect every day. For instance this past year . . .  
·         In the Crisis Nursery, 100% of the parents were able to maintain child safety by preventing child abuse and neglect.
·         In the Child Development Center, 100% of the parents increased their parenting skills.
·         In Family Services, 98% of the teen participants didn’t experience a second pregnancy.
·         In Family Services, 98% of those participating in parenting classes there was a positive change in parenting skills.
·         In the Stepping Stones program, 91% of the young ladies had custody of their children which has continually trended up over the last few years.

One of the key factors to a team experiencing success is in regards to our “fans”; which in this case I am referring to those individuals that support Crittenton Centers. More specifically, I am referring to those individuals that need our services and those individuals that donate their time, talents, and financial resources. During this past year, we provided a hand up to many individuals including:
·         In the Crisis Nursery, there were over 5,900 admissions which is a number that has trended up over the past three years, and those individuals received 37,000 hours of assistance.
·         In the Family Services Milestones Program, there were 486 home visits completed; which is an evidence based approach to assisting families and this number has trended up over that past three years.
·         There were 1,245 individuals that received services through all of the various program services.
·         100% of those individuals completing satisfaction surveys were satisfied with the assistance they received
·         There were over 2,000 individuals that volunteered to assist with program services, maintenance projects, special events, and other activities.

During my time at Crittenton Centers, I have been both amazed and humbled by the level of community support that we receive to fulfill our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families. I am grateful for those donors that have invested their resources and partnered with us to provide a hand up to those children and families in our care.
Every successful baseball team has what is referred to as a “Front Office” whose primary responsibility is to look out for the business side of the organization in an effort to help the team be successful. For Crittenton Centers, this support comes from the Board of Directors and Management Team within the organization. This group of individuals provides thoughtful and effective leadership in their efforts to support the team. 

At the end of October, there will be a trophy handed out to the team that wins the World Series, and while there won’t be a trophy handed out for efforts. We are grateful for the success that the children and families in our care have experienced. I am appreciative for everyone on the Crittenton Centers Team and know that there are countless children and families both now and in generations to come who’s lives will be better because of the investment of time, talent, and financial resources of everyone on the team.

If you would like to learn more about being on the winning team please call us at 674-0105 or check out our website at . Thank you

Take care,

Jeff Gress
President & CEO

Friday, September 23, 2016

September is one of my favorite months at Crittenton Centers.  For all of the reasons you might expect like cooler fall temperatures, the “back to school” feel that permeates the Child Development Center, and the bustle surrounding preparation for our holiday events.  But, there is one annual event in September that really gets me excited and gives me the “feels” -- Day of Caring!! 

What is Day of Caring, you ask?  Well, the name really captures the essence of the event.  The Day of Caring is an annual event hosted by the Heart of Illinois United Way.  Hundreds of volunteers from the for-profit sector, flood the streets of Peoria to make a difference, to share their time and talents, and show United Way Agencies that they care!  It is such a special day and one I look forward to every year.

This year’s Day of Caring did not disappoint.  We had over 30 volunteers here from CAT and PNC who came prepared to roll their sleeves up and get dirty.  The CAT volunteers even brought in the heavy machinery necessary to do some much needed landscaping and yard maintenance.   You see, we strive to be an oasis in our neighborhood and community.  We want to demonstrate our Agency values of respect and integrity by properly maintaining our property and the beautiful building we have been entrusted with.  This is so challenging with a maintenance department of one, so that is why the groups that volunteer to do this work are so special to us.  We value tremendously their willingness to sacrifice their time to help us, and show how much they care.  And, let’s just say, they had some fun along the way!

We had a second group from PNC who volunteered their time to work with children in the classrooms.  The children really are the heartbeat of Crittenton Centers’ mission and work, so volunteers taking time to care for them really gets us excited.  The children listened to the reading of a story and then created cards for children who are at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois.  This gave the children the chance to give back in their own way and encourage other children who are struggling. 

You see why I get so excited for Day of Caring?  It really brings everything together and completes the circle of community.  Volunteers helping non-profit organizations, non-profit organizations helping children and families, and children giving back to help other children!  Wow...what a circle to be a part of. 

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes an entire community of caring partners to support an organization like ours.  We really can’t say enough how grateful we are for every single one of you who supports our work in some way.  Your caring is appreciated and your impact is immeasurable!

Keri Hattan
Vice President & COO

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  Ronald Reagan

Friday, August 26, 2016

It takes time….

The generational effect of helping one person in Crisis…

Years ago as a Crisis Nursery Coordinator, I met a mother that would change the way I think about “if you can help just one person.”  Every day, Crisis Nursery helps so many families in their time of crisis and sometimes we don’t know the effects for years to come.
Pictured here  in 2016 with Board Emeritus of Crittenton Centers, Joan Janssen 

Our journey began with the mother, pictured above in 2001.  She was a 17 year old mother of two who called the Crisis Nursery from her hospital bed.  The hospital staff told her about how our Crisis Nursery could help her as she found her way out of the abusive relationship that started her seizure disorder.  She used our Crisis Nursery as one of the resources to successfully leave the abusive relationship. 

As the Crisis Nursery Coordinator, I noticed she still needed our services on a regular basis for various reasons including: hospital visits due to seizures, parental stress, job interviews, and appointments. In the Nursery, we support families with the ultimate goal of them no longer needing our services.  Therefore, I sat down and had a meaningful conversation with her about her challenges, hopes, and dreams. This mother and I looked at how we could make her life better for her and the children.  I, in a sense, became the “mom” she was missing in her life.

As we looked at her goals, we started with small achievable goals and moved on to greater goals.  First, she needed to stop having sleep deprivation and stress which triggered her seizures. In our heart to heart conversations, I learned that she now had all five of her children sleeping in her bed.  I knew she needed to have the children in their own beds in order to have restorative sleep.  I taught her how to have a bedtime routine chart that ended with each child sleeping in their own bed.  She loved it but said she didn’t have any books for a bedtime story.  Through the many donations at Crittenton Centers we were able to provide her with books for each child.   She called me very excited on the first day she had a full night’s sleep.

The second goal was to become a CNA.   Once she enrolled in school, her children were enrolled in the Child Development Center for daycare. She learned more about becoming a better mom through our Family Services parenting groups and parenting classes.  Recently, even though her youngest child is 9, she called to tell me she had met her ultimate goal of being employed at a hospital full-time.  She is now excelling in her position, raising five children who are doing very well in school and is now married. How wonderful it is to see where she has been and what she has become! 

At Crittenton Centers, we have the unique opportunity to catch someone in crisis and support them out of crisis by changing their life and their children's' for the better. Two generations being served at the same time with the same goal of strengthening the family.  With a belief that strong families build strong communities, Crittenton Centers focuses on making sustainable changes for families.  Many of our families face ups and downs in their lives.  They know we are there to continue to support them even when they take a few steps backward.  We are fortunate that some of our families still contact us after they can no longer need our services and thank us for the impact we had on their lives.  We do not do it alone; the support from the community to our agency is incredible.  We know that eventually the help we give to families every day will have long term effects on the community… it just takes time. 

Donna Ashley, Program Services Director 

Friday, August 19, 2016

An Olympic Size Send Off...

Our teachers always go above and beyond to make sure the educational experiences at Crittenton Centers’ Child Development Center are both fun and meaningful.  This week proved again how much our teachers care about each child.

Tuesday was the last day of summer for our preschoolers before they went off to kindergarten.   Since most of the children have been with us since they were babies, the preschool teachers planned an Olympic size send off!  For the past two weeks the children have been training for their very own Summer Olympics.  The children trained their bodies to “compete” in gymnastics, bobsledding, javelin throw, an obstacle course, and more!  The teachers used this as an opportunity to train their minds in colors, geography, and counting. 

At 10am, the children wearing specially made uniforms chanting “U.S.A” marched to their very own Summer Olympics.  Each child was able to try each sport with a crowd of parents, teachers, and friends cheering them all the way.

Today, one of our preschool teachers took her lunch break to meet up with a student at his new school because the transition from her preschool classroom to his new kindergarten classroom was hard on him.  She met with his teacher and went over what worked best for him in her classroom.  Then she sat with him and told him she would come back and check on him in 10 days to see how much he loved his new classroom. 

Our teachers live out our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families each day in our classrooms.  We are so grateful for our teachers who go the extra mile to make sure the children know they are loved. 

Sandy Garza
Development and Marketing Director

Friday, July 29, 2016

How did Kids' Day get started?

How did Kids' Day get started?

Despite the excessive heat warning, the 10th annual Kids' Day was a great success again this year. We are often asked, "Where do these events come from?"  Kids' Day started as an idea from a local group of community entrepreneurs called, Active Community Entrepreneurs (ACE). ACE members wanted to use their business connections to give back to their community.  As business people, they were consistently asked to support local charities. They decided to answer the call with a resounding, yes!

They decided to host an event called Kids' Day at the Grand Prairie mall in the summer of 2006 with all proceeds benefiting Crittenton Centers. The event would have entertainment for the whole family while raising money for local families in our community.  Using the connections made in the business world, ACE members were able to bring Mayor Jim Ardis on board for commercials, and he even sat in the Dunk Tank to raise money. Next, they asked local business contacts to sponsor booths at the event where they could showcase their business. This was so much more than a "vendor" fair; it was a way for businesses to reach new people while giving back to the local community.

Since the first year, this idea turned into an event raising over $275,000 for Crittenton Centers programs. On average over 2000 people participate in the event each year. Every year the event has grown and changed the lives of children and families in the Peoria and surrounding areas. After the event was established, the ACE members handed it over to Crittenton Centers to facilitate.

Crittenton Centers is truly grateful for all the support given to us by the city, the local business owners, and volunteers who help us keep our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families alive.  Due to your steadfast support, we are able to prevent child abuse and neglect while strengthening families.