Friday, May 27, 2016

Graduation Day!

With a standing room only crowd this week, we watched 16 preschoolers graduate from Crittenton Centers.  Dressed in caps and gowns, the children grinned from ear to ear as they walked to their seats.  Each child received an award for their unique contribution to the classroom and a backpack full of school supplies to start their school career.  We even had a special visitor – “Pete the Cat”! 

As the years go by, we watch children grow and learn, and the teachers in our Child Development Center work to prepare children for their graduation day.  As you travel through the halls, you see children playing.  But do you think, “Look at them working?”  When children are playing, they are “working”.  When children are in the Block Center, can you think of all the skills they are learning?  They are learning the concept of shape, size and length to create and repeat patterns; to use their imagination; to express their ideas; to cooperate with others; and to solve problems - just to name a few. 
This graduation day brings to mind what it takes to help a child succeed.  It takes parents being actively involved in the child’s education.   It takes staff in the Child Development Center teaching and playing…or should we call it working?  It takes a community that graciously supports our work with two generations providing education to the children and support of parents as teachers. 
This fall our graduates will be off to kindergarten ready to learn!  We are sad to see them go, as some of them have been with us since they were infants. How exciting it will be to learn how successful they become!  As we say goodbye to our preschoolers, we hope will be a successful educational journey.  Maybe the play, or work, that started in the Block Center is the beginning of a brilliant architect.  And our wish for each one of them is that…this be the first of many graduations to come. 

Donna Ashley

Program Services Director

Friday, May 20, 2016

I was born at Crittenton Centers.

This past Friday the 13th was not scary but it was a once in a lifetime moment for me!

As the Development and Marketing Director at Crittenton Centers; I have given the tour at least 100 times telling our visitors, "Crittenton Centers opened in 1892 as a home for unwed mothers and we adopted out over 4000 babies."  Pointing to the picture on the wall, I say "Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys is are most famous baby born at Crittenton Centers."

Last Friday the 13th at 4:00 p.m. the office was really quiet and my secretary asked down the hall if someone could help Mr. Johnston up front with some information about our history.  

He wanted to know if he could see the place he was born.  I told him the building was still standing on Heading Ave about a 10 minute drive from here. He walked over from his hotel, so I offered to drive him in my car which has my son's car seat and his mess.  He smiled and said "I have four children, don't worry."

Upon arrival, we took a picture of him in front of the building.(shown above)  Then we proceeded to look for the room he was born. We searched several rooms and hallways with no person in sight.   Almost ready to leave, we heard voices coming from the other side of the building.  One woman was still working, we asked if she knew the history of the building and she pointed us towards a plaque on the wall. Bruce looked at her and said I was born in this building. Before he could say anything more, she said you must have been born in my room.  She lead us to the birthing room of the original Crittenton Centers.  It is still a sound proof room with 4" thick steal doors because they didn't have epidurals for the mothers giving birth at that time in history.

He was gracious and let us take a picture. When we left, I told him it was a GOD moment because the one person still working in the building was renting the birthing room and could let us in to see it. He agreed and as we drove back to his hotel, he sang the Grammy Award winning song that he wrote for Barry Manilow called, I Write the Songs.  

Sandy Garza, Development and Marketing Director

Friday, May 13, 2016


Webster’s dictionary defines remarkable as “worthy of attention; striking.”  What a powerful word.  One of my favorite things about working at Crittenton Centers is all of the remarkable people I have the opportunity to meet, people who are worthy of attention for many different reasons.  From the children and parents I interact with on a daily basis, to the community partners and volunteers who generously give of their time and resources to support the work, everyone has a common vision -- successful children and families living in a safe, vibrant community!  This is what we work toward every single day and we absolutely could not do it without community support. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Todd and Mandy from the Painters District Council 30.  These two remarkable individuals are a part of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and they were looking for an opportunity to give back to the community.  Todd, the Director of Employer Recruitment and Retention for the organization, was willing to hear suggestions for projects, and Mandy had one. 

Mandy knew of Crittenton Centers, because she was one of the individuals who painted our building when it was built in 2004.  In fact, it was one of her first professional painting jobs.  She identified with the services we offered, and felt she could relate to the situations of many of the clients, being a single mother herself.  Twelve years later, Crittenton Centers came back to mind when her group was looking for a project, and she and Todd reached out.

They came in early April for a tour, and listened to the needs we currently have.  They asked us to identify some painting priorities and they would see what they could do.  In addition to providing all of the labor for the project, they would provide the paint and supplies.  Remarkable!  For a non-profit agency who strives to steward our physical resources well, this was such a gift.

On April 16th, a crew of twelve people arrived with the goal of painting 2 Child Development Center classrooms, a Crisis Nursery bedroom, and a large section of our indoor playcourt.   They quickly completed the task and made a promise to return in the future.  All totaled, their donation of time and materials was right at $7,000!!! 

PDC 30 was at Crittenton Centers as part of the #IUPAT Community Day of Action!

These are the heroes of our community and our organization.  They often do not receive public recognition, and truthfully, they don’t do it for that reason.  They simply want to help in achieving the vision.  They want to support our work of protecting and nurturing children and families because they know it is the only way to strengthen our overall community.  We are so grateful to Todd, Mandy and the entire crew.  We sincerely thank you for your generosity!  You are remarkable.

Keri Hattan
Vice President & COO

Friday, May 6, 2016

Preparing Children and Families for the Best Future Possible

We have just finished the month of April, which is Child Abuse Awareness month. As we think about abuse and neglect I think everyone reading this blog understands the importance of protecting children and the dangers of abuse and neglect. I could list some very alarming statistics in regards to the impact (both immediate and long term) that abuse and neglect has on a child but would rather focus on the importance of what we do every day at Crittenton Centers to protect and nurture children and families.

I oftentimes walk through the building to interact with the children and see how staff is doing. In an effort to help you understand the importance of the work we do I want to share with you a collection of observations that I have experienced as I’ve walked through the building in recent weeks.

As I leave my office I hear a staff member talking with a group of individuals from CAT thanking them for their donation of diapers and formula saying, “yes it seems that we can never have too many of these kinds of items.” She thanks them and directs their attention to the timeline of our history as they begin a tour of the Agency. There are so many generous people in the Peoria area that support our efforts through these kinds of donations and it would be impossible to do what we do without them.
As I continue on my journey through the building I step into the Crisis Nursery to see a staff member talking with a mother who is very anxious as she expressed her frustration and concern. She talked about going through some very challenging and difficult circumstances. The staff member very calmly talked this young mother through what she was experiencing while instilling a sense of hope. In all of the haste to bring her child to the Crisis Nursery she forgot to bring clothes, diapers and formula. The staff indicated that is nothing to worry about as they can provide those kinds of items. Through this interaction the staff member was able to help this mother see how she would benefit from the parenting classes and additional support. In this moment the staff relieved much of the immediate stress while connecting this young mother to parenting classes and other resources that will help her manage her life situations more effectively thus decreasing the risk for abuse and neglect.

The next stop was the outdoor play court which happens to be one of my all-time favorite places in the building and with the weather improving the children love being outside. As I walked across the play court I noticed one of the children experiencing some sort of difficulty but also see a teacher lovingly listening to them. The teacher was attentive and using the time to help the child with whatever was going on. I am grateful for teachers that not only see the educational needs of the children but also see the importance of the social and emotional needs of the children. Through this comprehensive approach the children benefit as well as begin learning how to manage difficulties.    

After leaving the outdoor play court I came inside to stop in one of the classrooms. As I entered I could see all of the children huddled together around their teacher as she was reading to them. The children were engaged and asking questions . . . learning takes place every day. The teachers are very diligent in their efforts to expose the children to a variety of experiences to promote learning. In an effort to promote learning we provide books for parents to read to their children at home. Research indicates that the better the reading skills of children the more successful they are likely be as they enter school. The reading between the children and parents also promotes bonding in relationships which is a predictor of future success.  


As I head back to my office I walk by the MP Room which is being used to conduct a parenting group. I stop and look in to see a room full of moms and dads actively engaged in the discussion that is taking place. These groups offer parents the opportunity to learn and practice skills as well as receive support from each other as they grapple with the various challenges that come with parenting. I have come to a conclusion in regards to the parents we work with through these groups. For the most part they desire to be effective parents but oftentimes haven’t been provided with the best example. The parenting groups provide opportunities to learn and be encouraged in their efforts.

The core of what we do at Crittenton Centers is about prevention but I also tend to look at what we do as preparation. We partner every day with the children and families as well as with the community to prepare the children and families for the best future possible. Strong families build strong communities. 
Written by Jeff Gress, President & CEO of Crittenton Centers