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

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.

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

Friday, June 3, 2016

Every child has their own story . . . 

Since my arrival at Crittenton Centers a little over a year ago, I have been asked many questions about the work that takes place here. Some questions have been very specific while others have been general in nature. Oftentimes the response by those asking is similar . . . WOW! I never realized there was that kind of need or that there were those kinds of challenges for families in the Peoria area. One of the questions that I have been asked the most is about the work we do in the Crisis Nursery. What are some of the reasons that someone needs to use the Crisis Nursery?

There is no short answer to this question, as there are numerous reasons that someone may need the Crisis Nursery. There are some very obvious reasons like: child care fell through at the last minute, an unexpected situation came up, or the mother has become very frustrated and really needs a break. Then there are also some that are a little more unusual like: a mother of triplets that needed to clean their apartment and do laundry but couldn’t with the demands of the triplets, the mother that had to have surgery but didn’t have anyone to take care of her children, or the mom that was living in a shelter and had a job interview. Each of these scenarios has a common thread of people trying to manage their lives, and because of the circumstances there is potential for it to turn into an abusive or neglectful situation for the children involved.  

One night a few months ago, the worker in the Crisis Nursery received a phone call from the Peoria Police Department regarding a situation they were dealing with. The worker asked some basic questions in order to determine how best to help. The Police had just arrested a man and woman in downtown Peoria for public intoxication / disorderly conduct amongst other things. While the Police were going through the process of the arrest, they learned that they had a 6 week old baby with them. The matter was further complicated by the fact that these individuals were not from Peoria, but were actually from out of state. The Police would learn later that these individuals actually had several outstanding arrest warrants from other states. This is a difficult situation to say the least, and further complicated because an innocent 6 week old baby was caught up in all of this by no choice of their own. This is a sad reality that happens all too often, and then we wonder why some individuals struggle as they reach the teen years and become adults.   

Within an hour or so of the phone call there were two Police Officers pushing a stroller into the building with this little baby. Once things were settled with the Officers, the staff proceeded to make sure that all of the immediate basic needs were met. The baby was bathed, had their diaper changed, and provided with new clothing. The staff then fed, spent time rocking, and loving the baby. Most of the items were available to provide because of the generosity of our donors. We could not do what we do without them and are grateful of their ongoing support. The baby ended up spending a few days with us while the authorities sorted through all of the details in order to do what was best for the baby.     
There have been over 5,800 admissions to the Crisis Nursery in the last year and this this is just one of the many stories that make the Crisis Nursery such a valuable asset to community as we strive to protect and nurture the children and families in our care.  

Jeff Gress, 
President & CEO

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