Friday, July 19, 2019

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

A Gift That Keeps On Giving

One thing that never fails to bring a smile to my face is the gift of giving. However, many people seem to believe that they have nothing to give. What is often overlooked is how we are all capable of charity. In fact, some of the most heartwarming stories I have had the pleasure of hearing about are those of children from our local community giving back.

That being said, what better than to see some of the greatest gifts in our lives, our own kids, giving back to the community?

Kenzie Hart’s 10th birthday was around the corner. She was excited like any other kid would be, but not for the party or the birthday presents. Instead, she asked for baby bottles, diapers, and other baby supplies. When she stopped into our Crisis Nursery to drop off her donation, it was clear to us that this was something Kenzie was passionate about.

(above: Kenzie Hart with birthday donations, 2016)

“It makes me feel really good when I do this,
I just really want to,”
Kenzie Hart

Though Kenzie didn’t want to brag, Janel Hart, her mother, was very proud to boast about her daughter’s gift of charity, and told us that she had come up with the idea herself.

“I like to think that as a family we have fostered her giving spirit and that we have led by example,” Janel shared.

“...when I see how happy it makes her to help others at such a young age, it makes me wonder about all the good things she will do in the future. I can see her devoting her life to helping others in some form when she is an adult.”
Janel Hart

This was not Kenzie’s first time helping out at Crittenton, and most certainly not her last. In fact, Janel was happy to share that Kenzie also collected donations for the center on her 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th birthdays. In addition to collecting birthday donations, Kenzie has worked Crittenton’s Stocking Stuffer Store with her mother and sister for the past three years.
(above: Kenzie Hart with birthday donations, 2017)

At Crittenton, we believe that children come first and that strong families build strong communities. As a family, the Harts have spoken to these beliefs by fostering such a bright and contagious giving spirit in their daughter. This family’s commitment to charity is a gift that will continue to keep on giving. In fact, Kenzie was happy to share that she has already inspired some of her friends to start collecting donations in lieu of traditional birthday gifts too!

Charity is a gift that we all have to share, and here at Crittenton we are truly thankful for all the individuals who help keep our Crisis Nursery, Child Development Center, and Educational and Support Services up and running. Our donors and volunteers help us continue to put to action the mission we were built on - to protect and nurture children and families.

To find out how you can get yourself and your children involved with Crittenton, visit us at

Monday, March 27, 2017

During the past two years in my role as Family Services Coordinator, I have observed many families’ stories. These stories are one that needed to be shared.

     * A pregnant mother at age 20, stuck in the cycle of financial abuse from her family, wanted so badly trying to find her own place to live. Her minimum-wage job at fast food restaurant barely paid the monthly rent, let alone anything else to provide for herself and her 2-year old daughter. A Crittenton staff member took it upon herself to help this young mother take an employment test online, as well as purchase her some items for her first apartment.  She bought her blankets, dishes, towels, etc. This teen said, “I don’t have much to give you to say thank you, but I want to buy you something.” She came in the next day with a coffee and a handwritten card that said, “I don’t get much help in my life. So when someone helps me, it means a lot. Thank you for doing this for me.”

*  With five children under age ten, this mother did not get much time to herself. Struggling with depression, our Parent educator brought the children “calming corner activities” and offered to make their next home visit at McDonald’s so the kids could play and get some energy out. When our parent educator offered to buy this mother lunch, she was nearly in tears. “We NEVER get to go out to eat,” she said. “I don’t even know what I would order.”

The families we serve deal with small crises every day. They live without secure housing, a living wage, their own transportation, and do not always know where their next meal is coming from.  Our role is to help lighten their load by strengthening the family unit. We are teaching parents the importance of play and quality time which are both powerful tools to help a child learn about the world around them as they form a secure attachment with their parent. We leave books at every visit to teach families how important literacy is to brain development from the time of birth. With weekly support visits, parent education, parent-child interaction activities, resource referrals, and goal-setting; our Parent Educators are changing the lives of two generations at a time. 

Weekly home visiting programs are a proven prevention strategy for breaking the destructive cycles of abuse and neglect. Last year, our Parent Educators provided 701 home visits at no cost to the families to fulfill our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families. 

 Sarah Chapman                                                                                                                               Family Services Coordinator

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

What A Day…Have you ever said to yourself what a day with a sigh?

Stock image to protect privacy of the family.

“What a day” she said with a sigh, as one mother explained her situation to our Crisis Nursery staff.  She and her child woke up on her sister’s couch.  Her sister is tired of them staying with her and tells her to find somewhere else to live.  The child is hungry, and there is no food in the cabinets.  She just started a new job and needs to be at work by 9:00 am.  At 7:30 am she calls Crisis Nursery to see if we have any openings for her child today.  She is not sure if there will be a space, but she knows she has to find somewhere for her child to go today because she can’t miss another day of work or she will lose her job.  This mother has no reliable source of child care until her child care application for assistance has been approved and it could be another three weeks before approval. 

She is thankful her child can be cared for in the Nursery today.  She doesn’t own a car; therefore, she needs to be on the bus by 7:45 am.  She gets on the bus; drops her child off at Crisis Nursery; waits for another bus to pick her up; transfers buses; and punches into work 3 minutes late.  Her boss is not happy.  She works until 5:00 pm, and then gets back on the bus to pick up her child at Crisis Nursery. The Crisis Nursery coordinator meets with her to help her find a way out of this crisis.  First the Crisis Nursery staff provides referrals to shelters then introduces the mother to our Child Development Center (Daycare) coordinator to help her with finding reliable child care, and finally gives her some food for her child. 

Upon leaving, she misses the bus and has to entertain the child for a half hour before another bus arrives.  She finally gets on the bus and returns to her sister’s at 7:30 pm.  Her sister begins yelling at her that she needs to find somewhere else to live.  In the meantime, she knows she has to feed her child, give him a bath, and get him to sleep in order to do this all over again tomorrow. This mother loves her child and wants the best for him like all mothers.  If she can keep this up for another four weeks, hopefully the child care assistance will be approved which will provide safe and reliable childcare for her son.  We work hard every day to help people during their crisis and to provide a path out of their crisis. Hope is a powerful motivator to keep going in a time of crisis. Luckily, mothers have the support of Crisis Nursery.  They have someone to talk to and help them move their family to a better place.  Everyone needs someone who truly cares. 

You don’t know the difference your donation makes for a family but we see it every day. Thank you for supporting children and families. We experience each day the gratitude for your care in the life of a family.  We take it one day, one hour at a time and work to make a difference in the community and fulfill our mission of protecting and nurturing children and families.  

Some days, we know that by giving a parent a little time to themselves we may have prevented them from shaking a baby, it may have prevented them from hurting a toddler, or it may have given them some hope.  Next time you think “What a Day!” think of the blessings you have that others may not.  One of mine is the blessing to be involved with such an outstanding organization that is making our community a better place…one family at a time.    
Donna Ashley
Program Services Director

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Just one more, please!"

It is such a pleasure to hear the children in our Child Development Center (CDC) daycare and preschool requesting "just one more, please!" referring to their new books.  This past Friday the children were busy reading and listening to their brand new Usborne books! Abbey Cook, a board member,  hosted a fundraiser that provided Crittenton Centers with over $1,000 worth of books for the children.  These books are exciting, engaging, educational, and purposefully chosen for the children.  The stories and illustrations keep all of our children, ages 6 weeks to 6 years,  passionate about reading.  The CDC promotes a love of books and reading from an early age that will hopefully last for many years. 

Crittenton Centers' vision of educating and strengthening children and families to build safe, vibrant communities where children thrive and families succeed is in full swing in our CDC. Each week, thanks to donations and the Success by Six program offered through the United Way, we are able to provide each child a brand new book to take home. So many of our families are grateful for the opportunity to build their own home library.  Your donations truly put a smile on their faces and a love a reading in their hearts!

Sandy Garza
Development and Marketing Director 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Top Ten Thankful Things

November is definitely the season of gratitude and thankfulness!  The month is spent in anticipation of gathering with friends, family and loved ones on Thanksgiving to celebrate and reflect on the countless number of things we have to be thankful for.  At Crittenton Centers, we go through this same type of reflection, thinking of the many things we have to give thanks for.  So, here is our list of ten! It is by no means comprehensive, but it certainly captures many of the blessings we are grateful for each day.

10.  Facility.

Crittenton Centers has certainly evolved since 1892 when it was founded and called the “Home of Blessing.”  The buildings of our history are beautiful and certainly served their purpose, but we couldn’t be more thankful for our state of the art facility located in the heart of the community we serve.  We moved here in 2004 and were able to bring all three core services under one roof!  This further enhanced our ability to provide wrap-around services to children and families.  365 days a year, the lights are always on at Crittenton Centers!

9. Financial Support.

From individual donors to grants secured through the State and community organizations, we could not do any of the work we do without financial support.  The financial support we receive from these sources as well as our special events, allow us to provide safe, nurturing care to children in our Crisis Nursery and Child Development Center.  It also provides us the opportunity to support parents and educate them on the important role they play in their child’s life. 

8. Resources.

Quite simply, we are thankful for all of the resources we have to educate and care for young children.  A pantry full of healthy, nutritious food; play equipment that allows children to exercise and develop their growing bodies; books to foster an early love of reading; safe reliable vehicles to provide home visits and client transportation.  All of these resources create an environment for successful learning!

7. Vendors.

We are so fortunate to have vendors that not only provide great customer service to keep our operations running smoothly, but are also deeply committed to our organization’s mission.  Jeff at Stellar Systems who manages all of our technology needs; John at Performance Foods who takes time to come in each week and personally order the food needed for children’s meals; Trisha, Mindy, Denise and Sandy at Kuhl Insurance who work tirelessly to advocate for staff; and Pam at Mutual of America who takes time to ensure staff have the tools for successful retirement planning.  These are just a few of companies we are grateful to for their continued support.  You certainly go above and beyond.

6. Community Partners.

There really are too many to name, but we could not successfully complete the mission of protecting and nurturing children and families without all of the other human service organizations in this community.  By working together in partnership we are building a stronger community.

5. Volunteers.

Our volunteers are one of our biggest blessings.  They do so much to support the work from rocking babies in the Crisis Nursery to pulling weeds in the Community Garden.  There is no way we could do as much as we do successfully without their tireless support!
Featured in the Crisis Nursery.  All of the Volunteers who regularly give their time are displayed on the bulletin board: "Friendsgiving!"

 4. Board of Directors.

Our Board of Directors are some of the most committed people you will find.  They support the mission of Crittenton Centers through lending their expertise, governance, fundraising efforts and general ongoing support.  They desire to see the agency be as successful as possible and work hard to ensure that it is.  We are so thankful for their unwavering support of the work.

3. Staff.

There are not enough words to express the gratitude we have for our staff.  They are so committed to the mission and they demonstrate that every day through their work with children and families.  In fact, they are like family.  We all work together fulfilling our specific roles to ensure success for those we serve.  Nothing would be possible without them, and they are one of our richest blessings!

2. Children and Families.

Of course near the top of our list must be the children and families we serve!  Getting the opportunity to work with these little people every day is something that motivates each and every one of us on staff at Crittenton Centers.  Tucked inside each of these children is a story that is precious and wouldn’t be complete without the parents.  That is why we are grateful for the chance to work with two generations --parents and children. 

 P.S....Here are a few things the children are thankful and grateful for.....


1.  YOU!

Our list wouldn’t be complete without you.  No matter your role, if you’re reading this blog, you are a friend of Crittenton Centers and we are thankful for you!  Maybe you give financially, or advocate for the clients we serve, or remember us in your prayers, regardless of your role, it is critical to our success.  You support us in our effort to build stronger communities by strengthening families.  Thank you!

You have undoubtedly heard the saying “it takes a village to raise a child.”  This is something we say often around here, and is certainly a sentiment we experience every day.  Each of these items listed is a part of the village that helps make Crittenton Centers successful, and that includes you!

Happy Thanksgiving and MANY THANKS for your continued support,

Keri Hattan
Vice President and COO

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Making History Every Day . . . 

When I was in college what now seems like another life time ago, I was a secondary education major with an emphasis in history. My ambition at that time was to teach history and coach soccer on the high school level. This was partially due to two reasons; I was inspired by a couple of teachers (thank you Mr. Bonine and Mr. Lawson), and I have always enjoyed learning about and from history. Through the years, I think that my interest in history has developed more to the human involvement and cultural aspects of history, so maybe I should have become an Anthropologist. Actually, I think that because of those interests and my innate desire to help others is why working in social service is a good fit for who I am.

This week history intersected with my everyday life in two very diverse yet distinct ways. For one of them you would have had to have been hiding under a rock to not know that history was made. It has been 108 years since the last time that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. I saw an interview with a lady who was born a few months before the last time that the Cubs won in 1908. Seeing and hearing her really helped put these 108 years into perspective. This was the longest drought between championships for a sports team. I am just guessing that it won’t be 108 years before their next championship. I am not a Cubs fan, but you have to be happy for those individuals that have been fans all their lives, and this is the first time that they have been rewarded with a championship. Congratulations! 
The other way that history intersected in my life this week was an event that was held at Crittenton Centers. Kim Kliethermes, the current Board Chair, hosted a coffee for former Board Chairs. There were eight former Board Chairs, spanning from the current chair going back to the mid 1980’s that attended this event. I enjoyed the stories being told, and found them to be enlightening and encouraging. Whether it was Andrea Parker telling about how her dad introduced her to Crittenton by having her buy Christmas presents for the girls when she was 17 years old. Or whether it was Gary Ebeling telling about how the agency grappled with making the transition from a maternity home to more in line with the work we do today. Or hearing Jay Glatz talk about how proud he was that even though there were times that the agency struggled that the staff never lost sight of the mission. Or hearing about how the Stocking Stuffer Store got its start 33 years ago. Everyone had a story to tell, and every story is relevant to the work we do today.

This was a great opportunity to connect what we do today to our past and vice versa. Crittenton Centers truly does have an amazing history. There have been many people through the years that have had a hand in shaping the organization, while ensuring that the mission continues to be fulfilled. There have been more people that we will ever be able to count, whose lives are changed for the better as a result of their interaction with Crittenton.

Crittenton Centers will be celebrating our 125th anniversary in April of 2017. You don’t stay around for 125 years without making sure that the work and mission stay relevant to the need of the day. Organizations like Crittenton Centers also need a Board that provides thoughtful leadership to plan and make decisions that yield positive results. After spending about 90 minutes with these 8 individuals, it became very apparent that the agency has been blessed through the years with individuals that clearly have leadership skills but also had and actually have a love for the mission.

We are coming upon a busy time of the year for the agency with Festival of Trees and Stocking Stuffer Store. We need your help and would like to see record numbers of people attending these events as well as a record amount of revenue raised.
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.

Thank you for your interest and ongoing investment, as Crittenton Centers continues to make history every day. Take care

Jeff Gress
President & CEO
Protecting and Nurturing Children and Families since 1892

Crisis Nursery – Child Development Center – Family Services

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