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Jeremiah’s Place Provides a Safe Haven for Children in Crisis

Dec 30, 2014 12:08PM ● Published by Linda Gerber

Gallery: Jeremiah's Place [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Linda Gerber

Nobody can predict when a crisis situation will happen. In some cases, a family caught unprepared has no immediate safe place to take their children, and there may be no available relatives or friends to help. So where do they turn?

Jeremiah’s Place offers a safe, stable and loving environment for children, staffed by trauma-informed caregivers and social workers. It is open 24/7 for children ranging from birth to six years old. Children can stay for up to 72 hours at a time, or longer if needed. It can accommodate 12 children overnight and 20 in the daytime, and since it is a nonprofit organization, there is no charge to parents. Because it is a crisis nursery, parents don’t need to bring clothing or food. To date, Jeremiah’s Place has served more than 125 children from 80 different families for a total of over 5,200 hours.

Its three founders—Eileen Sharbaugh, Dr. Lynne Williams and Dr. Tammy Murdock—collectively saw the need for a crisis nursery in the area and worked hard to make it happen. Jeremiah’s Place was named after an infant with a serious illness that required extensive medical care.

Jeremiah’s Place Executive Director LouAnn Ross is a former elementary school teacher. “When I was teaching, I had a little boy who was very hard to reach. If there was a place like this in his area, things would have been much better for him,” she said as to why she applied for her current position. “When I interviewed, I said to my husband, ‘Even if I don’t get the job, I’m definitely going to volunteer.’ This is such a loving and caring place for children, it can literally change their lives.

“Just after opening, a woman stopped in because she had an interview to go to and no family or friends to watch her children,” added Ross. “We were happy to help her and the result was her getting the job she interviewed for, a job that provided her daycare.”

Dr. Victoria Jewell-Mahler of Children’s Community Pediatrics in Wexford and Moon is very supportive of Jeremiah’s Place. She originally learned about the organization from Dr. Williams. “Life is unpredictable and parenting can be hard, especially when parents are trying to accomplish so much,” she said. “We see a lot of single parent families that sometimes don’t have a community of support.

“People should not view it as a shame or failure,” continued Jewell-Mahler, adding that there should not be a stigma for parents who need help. “It’s a resource to help them to be a good parent.” Although Mahler’s mother, Margaret Jewell, lives in Michigan, she is part of a dedicated group of women who knit teddy bears to be given to each child.

Community support is always welcome, according to Sharbaugh, cofounder and director of Volunteer Services. “We truly appreciate groups, organizations, businesses or families who sponsor a drive or collection,” she said. “We are also willing to talk to groups and organizations who would like to learn more about what a crisis nursery is and how it is a model to prevent child abuse.”

Many faith-based organizations have been extremely supportive by having ‘baby showers’ for Jeremiah’s Place and donating things from the wish list on its website.  Local schools have held mitten and hat drives, yard sales, and one school’s home economics class donated blankets that they sewed. Area businesses sponsor various donation drives, including monetary donations and gift cards, and when WYEP asked attendees of their annual Holiday Hootenanny to bring a pair of new pajamas for the children, they received over 700 pairs!

“The generosity of the people in our region is truly remarkable and has really helped our small start-up, nonprofit organization,” said Sharbaugh. “I am touched by the support that we have received. It is nothing short of amazing, and I believe that it shows what big hearts the folks in the Pittsburgh area have.”

When each child leaves, they are sent home with a backpack stuffed with various donated items and snacks, including a new pair of pajamas, and they also receive books thanks to local book drives. But the help doesn’t end with the children. Jeremiah’s Place also offers Adults and Children Together Against Violence (ACT) classes to help moms and dads become better parents.  

Jeremiah’s Place defines a crisis as any emergency care, urgent childcare needs and care of children at risk for child abuse. It is located within the Kingsley Center Building on Frankstown Avenue. If you or anyone you know is in need of their services, or if you can help, please call 412-924-0726 or visit www.jeremiahsplace.org.

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