Two years ago, Ruby Nolan was in crisis. She was living in a homeless shelter with her 3-month-old and 2-year-old children.
“My 2-year-old began having seizures, and I was on overload,” she said. “I was completely overwhelmed all the time — I was completely alone.”
Feeling stuck and unable to move forward in life, even cleaning the room she was staying in with her kids felt insurmountable.
Then, she heard about a supportive place where she could take her toddler regularly for an entire day so she could finally get things done that were critical to getting back on her feet.
Since opening its doors in 2005, hundreds of families have taken advantage of the KARE Crisis Nursery, a 24-hour nonprofit respite care facility, which is designed to provide safe and nurturing care for small children whose families find themselves in a stressful situation.
“He loved it,” said Ruby. “He would come back from being at the nursery for the day and his teeth would be brushed and sometimes he would have new clothes or shoes. He couldn’t wait to go back — that break meant the world to me.”
“We’ve seen a significant increase — roughly 25 percent — in homeless families this year,” said Lynn Woerner, the KARE Crisis Nursery’s executive director. “We get calls from Hospitality House all the time.”
Woerner cited recent examples, such as a teen mother with 3-month-old twins whose father had abandoned them before birth.
“She was living in her car with the babies and couch surfing,” said Woerner. “We’ve been able to help with child care, and now she’s in school.”
In a crisis, children up to the age of 5 can be placed in the KARE Crisis Nursery for as many as 30 days and nights while their parents are assisted with the resources needed to provide a stable home. In addition, the nursery provides up to 30 days of emergency daytime childcare during a six-month period. They also oversee court-mandated supervised visits and parent-child “safe exchanges” in a cozy home-like environment. A contractual agreement with CalWORKs allows for parents to go to job interviews, job training or have medical procedures done, while leaving their children in the care of the nursery. The house, with a large backyard and playground, can house six children at a time with a ratio of one staff member for every three children.
Needless to say, all of this takes money.
Although founded and originally funded by Soroptimist International of Grass Valley, the KARE Crisis Nursery’s funding sources now also include various grants, contracts, organizations, clubs, businesses, faith communities, private donations and — most importantly — fundraising events.
On Saturday, the nursery’s fourth annual fundraiser, “The KARE Affaire,” a gala dinner, celebrity costume fashion show and auction, will be at the 200-acre Rincon Del Rio Estate on the Bear River. The gala includes a hosted bar, fully catered dinner with wine and a silent auction. The much-anticipated highlight is always the costume fashion show and auction, featuring some of the county’s “most colorful citizens.” Models include Sally Harris of BYOB Wine Seller, Scott and Carol Kellermann of the Kellermann Foundation, Allison Swartzendruber of KNCO Radio, Howard Levine of the Grass Valley City Council and others.
Roughly 85 to 90 percent of the children who come to KARE Crisis Nursery have experienced some kind of trauma, Woerner said, and the staff is trained and carefully screened to effectively deal with such cases.
“I’ve seen a lot of successes — parents are choosing to use the nursery to head off crises,” Woerner said. “We get people from all walks of life here. There’s no judgment; we’re really very loving. We encompass everyone.”
Samantha Lee, who lost custody of her children in June, couldn’t agree more.
“When I couldn’t see my children, I lost my purpose. I got lost in drugs and meth,” she said. “But since I’ve been in rehab and been able to have supervised visits at the KARE Crisis Nursery, I have purpose again. I got tired of dying — now I have something to live for. The counselors who supervised the visits took notes and wrote that I am a good mom. That means a lot.”
The atmosphere at the nursery is more like a home — very supportive, and a stark contrast to the sterile offices of Child Protective Services, added Lee, who has been clean and sober for the past two months.
“Once I started having those visits with my kids I realized that the people at KARE Crisis had my back,” she said. “They listened to me completely and I saw in their eyes that they believed me when I told them I will do everything to fight for my kids.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at email@example.com or call 530-477-4203.