Taking KARE of kids in times of need | TheUnion.com

Taking KARE of kids in times of need

It’s being billed as a place of tender loving care for children who, once they enter the doors of the remodeled two-story home, may need it the most.

Each of the three bedrooms at the new KARE Crisis Nursery has been decorated in a theme that sparks thoughts of joy, not of the troubles that led them there.

When it opens next month, the home near Nevada Union High School will be the first of its kind in Nevada County to serve children who need temporary shelter while their parents or guardians work through emergencies that require them to be away for extended periods of time.

For the backers of the Kids Assistance and Respite in Emergencies Nursery, next month’s opening represents the culmination of a five-year journey and an important step in establishing a service that nearby communities have been providing for years.

“People have been excited about this for a long time, particularly the type of people I work with,” said Mary Graebner, president of the nursery’s board of directors and a Nevada County public health nurse.

Bringing your child to the nursery is voluntary and isn’t meant to be punitive in any way, Graebner said.

“We’re here to help parents get the services they need and make sure the children have a safe place to stay.”

Making the two-story home into a safe and inviting place for six children took five years of fund raising, hundreds of hours of volunteer time and nearly $750,000 for construction and program costs, Graebner said.

When it opens, the facility will employ 15 child-care providers and staff.

Children who come to the home may stay for free for as long as 30 days or as little as a few hours.

Strolling through each of the rooms and the expansive back yard, one gets the feeling that children might not want to leave once they arrive. The bedrooms and the living room were decorated by volunteers.

One room, decorated by the Bear River Lionesses, is decked out almost entirely in a jungle theme, with stuffed animals and “Lion King” bedspreads. Another room decorated by a local Soroptimists chapter is studded with teddy bears. The child’s bathroom features a “Finding Nemo” motif.

Out in the back yard, children can walk inside a play house or climb ropes on a pirate ship and relax in the crow’s nest.

They can even get their hands dirty inside “Dale’s Garden,” a vegetable garden dedicated to Dale Perry, a former Grass Valley patient of pediatrician Sarah Woerner, who has volunteered at the crisis nursery.

“Hopefully, children will have so much fun, they’ll forget why they’re here. It will hopefully be like having another member of the family taking care of them,” Woerner said.

Children who come to the crisis nursery can be outfitted with new and donated clothes that already are stacked to the garage ceiling. Everyone who leaves the nursery will do so with a new teddy bear.

Fran Freedle, one of the nursery’s key coordinators, acknowledged that the demand for the nursery’s services is probably greater than they can provide. There will be a waiting list once the nursery opens.

“In a perfect world, we would like it so we wouldn’t need to serve anybody,” Graebner said.

Linda Neely, program counselor for the Nevada County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, said the nursery will offer peace of mind to the parents and guardians who seek a respite at the nonprofit’s shelter for battered individuals.

“It will take the burden off of parents who have to drag their children through a difficult time,” she said.

In establishing the KARE Crisis Nursery, Nevada County joins nearby counties in providing similar services to a young population.

Two similar shelters exist in Sacramento to provide emergency services for as many as 24 children up to age 6. Placer and Yolo counties also offer similar programs.

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