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.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Where Does Food Come From?

If you ask a child, ”Where does food come from?”… you might get an answer of, “From the store”.  Children at Crittenton Centers look out their classroom window knowing food does not magically appear at the store.  It takes seeds, sun, water and hard work from dedicated volunteers.

Crittenton Centers’ Community Garden not only is a source of healthy foods for our family and community; it is about education.  Nearly 10 years ago, the garden started with just that in mind… a place to educate children and families about healthy eating.  It has grown to a beautiful fenced garden growing many types of produce including:  squash, corn, green beans, lettuce, kale, radishes, collard greens, green peppers, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.  Each spring, classrooms plant seeds and grow them into seedlings to transplant into the garden.  Last week, a classroom got to pick a green pepper grown from THEIR seeds.  They have learned about the growing process from seed to table.

A garden can absolutely not grow alone!  With a dedicated group of volunteers from Salem Lutheran Church and Bethel United Methodist Church, the garden is a beautiful learning environment.  On any given day, you may see Bill Ligon and a group of Salem Lutheran Church volunteers weeding the garden; Dean Doughty with a tiller working the soil; or Ed Funches and Jim Tyler with a hose watering the garden.  We could not support such a beautiful garden without the countless hours spent by this wonderful group of volunteers!  

On July 13th, Crittenton Centers held the 5th Annual Garden Celebration.  Although the weather did not cooperate, community member and Crittenton Centers’ families ate together inside.  Families were also educated about the garden and the benefits of eating healthy, fresh food. 

Many of our families find it challenging to offer their children a healthy alternative to chips for breakfast.  With education, we are able to bring awareness to parents about how important nutritious meals are for the development of our children.  Many times, with all the challenge faced by our families, putting fresh fruits and vegetables on the table is not a priority.  Getting to the bus stop on time to get to work is the priority over making scrambled eggs for breakfast.  By offering education and free, fresh garden produce available, we are working to instill the importance of a nutritious meal.  We hope one of our little people will find out kale chips are better than potato chips.  

Donna Ashley
Program Services Director

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Burning Question

The Burning Question . . . 

Doing business in Illinois as a not for profit has been difficult for many years due to the annual budget debacle, which has created chaos and challenges in a variety of ways. I participated in an interview for local media recently, and the burning question was in regards to what will you . . . Crittenton Centers do if there is no budget on July 1st? In order to answer that question I want to put a few things into perspective.

First of all, while there was a stopgap budget passed late on June 30th it only goes through the end of the calendar year and not the fiscal year which means only a six month budget. Imagine if you will, that you were told through your job that they were only going guarantee paying you for the next 6 months but were hoping you would continue doing your job for the next year. Then, to further complicate the matter, they told you that you were going to be paid consistently 2-3, sometimes 4 or more months late for your work.  So, while a stopgap budget provides some level of hope, it once again is putting a band aid on a very serious matter.

Secondly, there are a few things that I know in regards to the services that we provide. I know that there are hundreds of children and families every year whose lives are better because of our involvement. Last year alone, there were well over 5,000 admissions to the Crisis Nursery. There were thousands of hours of counseling, skill building, parental training, and support provided to teen moms, first time moms, and at risk parents.  Based on research, the types of services we provide lead to a decrease in abuse and neglect. And because of the decrease in abuse and neglect, there are countless lives changed for the better because of the positive long term impact.    
And finally, we are grateful for a caring community that supports our efforts to address the needs of at risk children and families. This past year, we have had over 2,200 individuals volunteer, providing approximately 16,000 hours of service. Our volunteers give of their time by cleaning classrooms or doing yard work or supporting special events or rocking babies to mention a few. Our volunteers are an invaluable asset to the Agency! Then there are times that we need formula or diapers or other supplies to help meet the needs of the children in our care. These kinds of donations make our funds go further while ensuring that the need is met. In addition to this support, there are individuals that donate funds to us on a regular basis and many have been doing this for years. There are also individuals that give when they learn about a specific need as well as, there are individuals and businesses that support our special events and fundraisers.    
So, my answer to the burning question by the media recently; what will Crittenton Centers do on July 1st if there is no budget? The same thing that we did last year and the same thing that we have done for nearly 125 years . . . continue providing quality services for children and families.  We are grateful for the opportunity to serve our community by protecting and nurturing children and families. We could not do what we do without all of the people that support our mission through giving their time, resources, funds and of themselves.
Please consider how you can help Crittenton Centers. Call us at 674-0105 or visit our website at to learn more about how you can volunteer, donate or take a tour.

Jeff Gress

President & CEO