In my “Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy” series, I feature Pittsburgh mothers who have started unique grassroots-type projects within the city. These projects directly benefit the greater good of Pittsburgh and improve the lives of our children, families, and/or other mothers. The series is my humble effort to create a positive, supportive environment among Pittsburgh mothers. I hope that it will a) help make these projects a success b) motivate other mothers to help support these projects and c) inspire other mothers to make their own dreams a reality. An introduction to the series can be found here.
“Your readers will want to know about this,” she said.
Wow–was she right!
I’ve spent the last week learning about Jeremiah’s Place, opening TODAY as Pittsburgh’s first “crisis nursery.” I’ve toured the facility. I’ve interviewed Lynne Williams, one of its founders. And, last night, I looked my husband in the eye and made him promise me that we could make a personal investment in it. Whether we volunteer there, or donate to it, or use the nursery ourselves–I want to help Jeremiah’s Place become a permanent fixture in the parenting culture of Pittsburgh. I hope you’ll feel the same way after you’re done reading this article!
I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Lynne Williams, one of the cofounders of Jeremiah’s Place, a local mother, and a physician. Here’s what she had to say about it:
What is Jeremiah’s Place?
Jeremiah’s Place (JP) is a relief nursery, also known as a crisis nursery. We provide free, temporary short-term childcare for young children when their families need to address a crisis or emergency. Since we know that children’s brains can be permanently altered after experiencing significant stressors, the mission of our relief nursery is to protect children “in the moment” of potential injury, to connect families to local resources, and to be a transformative voice in the community advocating for the health and safety of young children.
What does it mean for a family to be “in crisis?”
A “crisis” is defined by the family as any situation that makes it difficult for them to find safe child care for their young children. It might be a family involved in an accident who needs a safe place for their young children until grandparents can drive in from out of state. It might be a woman in a homeless shelter who needs some time away from her children to make it to her job interview. Or it might simply be a mother who lacks childcare options and feels like she’s going to lose her mind if she doesn’t get a nap! We suspect that the needs and the stories will be endless. Bottom line: EVERY SINGLE FAMILY who needs a temporary, safe option for childcare can use Jeremiah’s Place. Upon arrival at Jeremiah’s Place, we will also provide a social worker to meet with the families and determine what other resources might be helpful to them.
Where is it located?
Jeremiah’s Place is located within The Kingsley Center at the corner of Frankstown Ave and East Liberty Blvd at the cross-section of East Liberty, Homewood, Lincoln-Leminton, and Larrimer. We picked this location as it is within a community center that has a wonderful reputation and has a Family Support Center on the second floor. It is also easily accessible by public transportation.
How long can children stay at Jeremiah’s Place?
Jeremiah’s Place will initially be open from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm every day of the week. Soon it will expand to a 24/7 facility with childcare professionals staffing it every hour of the day. Children ages 6 and younger can stay for a few hours to up to 3 days depending on the unique needs of the family.
What will a typical day look like for a child at Jeremiah’s Place?
The wonderful thing about Jeremiah’s Place is that it will model a typical day at home for a child. From waking up in their own bed or crib, having breakfast in the eating nook, playing in the toy area, jumping and running in the gymnasium, cuddling up with a good book in the cozy corner, eating a healthy home-cooked dinner, taking a bath in our tub, to settling down to sleep again, we hope that the routine and living space of Jeremiah’s Place feels like home to these children. Each child will also get a backpack, book, blanket, handmade teddy bear, pair of pajamas, and a toothbrush to help them get settled in.
How can members of the community become involved in Jeremiah’s Place?
Jeremiah’s Place was started by a group of passionate volunteers and will remain viable only through the continued help of caring individuals. We need individuals who are committed to donating financially on a monthly or one-time basis. We also appreciate material donations. We even have a baby registry online at Target! We would also love to actively engage more volunteers from the community. Volunteers can commit to a weekly shift in caring for the children or less time-consuming activities such as hosting a baby shower, stuffing back packs to give to the children, or joining us on Sunday afternoons to prepare meals for the kids.
Next, I talked with Lynne about her personal and professional background and how she was inspired to start Jeremiah’s Place:
How did you become inspired to start Jeremiah’s Place?
My inspiration came from both a personal and professional perspective. I have been a foster parent since 2005. The mother of our first foster son “lost him to the system” due to drug use. She continually battled her addiction in order to be reunited with her son. Unfortunately, she relapsed each time that she got him back because of the stress of care-taking without social supports. If there had been a Jeremiah’s Place available then, I wonder if she would still have her son with her…
Professionally, I am an internal medicine-pediatric physician who provides care to underserved populations. I frequently hear stories from patients (usually fellow mothers) who neglect to seek medical care for themselves because they have no one to care for their young children. I don’t think parents should have to make that choice! About 4 years ago, I met with a medical student who had completed a project on crisis nurseries (I had never heard of the idea before). I knew in an instant that it was the project of my dreams! But it didn’t start coming together until I met my incredible co-founders, Dr. Tammy Murdock and Eileen Sharbaugh.
Why do you think there is so much of a need for JP?
I think there is a lack of immediate, concrete, nonjudgmental support of families with young children. In addition, many parents are raising their children without the support of extended family close by. There is also a loss of interconnectivity within neighborhoods as our lives have become “so busy.” Finally, there is the notion that parents should be able to handle this tough job on their own. At Jeremiah’s Place, we believe that asking for help is a sign of strength! We all dream that Jeremiah’s Place will become a “movement” that will inspire our society to start paying attention to the needs of families with young children. None of us can do it alone!!
Finally, we talked about Lynne’s home situation and how she manages to balance her professional and personal lives:
Can you tell me about your unusual family situation?
I live with my sister in a big old Victorian house. We dreamed of filling it with the pitter-patter of little feet (or the elephant stomp of growing boys!). We took the required classes to become foster parents and a couple days after we were certified, the first kids arrived. One cute little boy led to another….and another….and another….and now our house is filled with five boisterous boys in a five-year age span! There is never a dull moment….for any of us! Since then, we have officially adopted each of them!
How do you balance the demands of raising these children and being a part of Jeremiah’s Place?
Balancing the demands of raising our children, working parttime, and my many hours of working on Jeremiah’s Place is sometimes challenging. But, for me, Jeremiah’s Place is a way to give back and help others in the community. I want my boys to see my work with JP as a model for finding your love and never giving up when there is the chance to do good in the lives of others!
Even before I got out of my car to visit Jeremiah’s Place and to meet Dr. Williams, I knew I would love it. This mural welcomed me on a warehouse wall across from it:
It made me smile…
I was greeted enthusiastically at the front door by Lynne and LouAnn Ross, the Executive Director of Jeremiah’s Place. They smiled warmly, bubbling over with excitement about their opening day this week. As they proudly showed me around JP, they reminded me of expectant mothers who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first children.
I spent the rest of my time at Jeremiah’s Place smiling, too.
I smiled as I looked at this Fred Rogers quotation in the cozy reading nook:
I smiled as I peeked into the bathroom and saw this row of toothbrushes:
I smiled as I looked into the storage closet and saw these handmade teddy bears, ready to be loved by local children:
It was obviously…undeniably…a happy, welcoming place…staffed by some of the city’s most beautiful souls. In fact, there is no doubt that I would bring my own children there if the need ever arises!
And yet… I cried on my way home.
“Why?” you ask.
Because I couldn’t stop thinking about this rocking chair in one of the bedrooms:
It waited patiently for the children who will come to Jeremiah’s Place soon and who will need it.
Thank you to Lynne Williams, and to all the other inspiring women who have helped create Jeremiah’s Place. Thank you for being the ones who will rock our babies to sleep when we have nobody else to turn to….
Want to connect with Jeremiah’s Place? Here are links to its website, Facebook page, and Twitter account. Also, Dr. Lynne Williams has a personal blog about foster parenting, adopting, and mothering her 5 boys called Middle of the Madness.
AND, if you are around next weekend, Jeremiah’s Place is holding its 2nd Annual 5K Run/Walk and 5-mile run on Saturday April 26th. The race will be followed by free family fun activities from 10:30 – 12:30.