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Crisis nursery in Larimer will fill a need, founders believe

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 11:15 p.m.
Nathan Williams, 5, of Observatory Hill, draws on a chalkboard following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Jeremiah's Place, Pittsburgh's first relief  nursery, in Larimer on April 16, 2014. Williams' mother is a co-founder and board member for the nursery. The nursery will provide temporary childcare for children ages six and under while their families are in crisis.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Nathan Williams, 5, of Observatory Hill, draws on a chalkboard following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Jeremiah's Place, Pittsburgh's first relief nursery, in Larimer on April 16, 2014. Williams' mother is a co-founder and board member for the nursery. The nursery will provide temporary childcare for children ages six and under while their families are in crisis.
Sam Williams, 2, of Observatory Hill, stands by his mother Lynne prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Jeremiah's Place, Pittsburgh's first relief  nursery, in Larimer on April 16, 2014. Lynne Williams is a co-founder and board member for the nursery. The nursery will provide temporary childcare for children ages six and under while their families are in crisis.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Sam Williams, 2, of Observatory Hill, stands by his mother Lynne prior to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Jeremiah's Place, Pittsburgh's first relief nursery, in Larimer on April 16, 2014. Lynne Williams is a co-founder and board member for the nursery. The nursery will provide temporary childcare for children ages six and under while their families are in crisis.

In the months before Wednesday's ribbon-cutting, organizers of Pittsburgh's first crisis nursery heard almost daily from desperate parents.

A homeless mother hiding from an abusive partner said she had nowhere to take her baby when she looked for work. An expectant mother, whose husband is deployed with the military overseas, had a Caesarean section scheduled but no one to watch her child.

“On one hand, it breaks my heart that there's that much need, but on the other hand, at least we're here now,” said LouAnn Ross, executive director of the nonprofit crisis child care center Jeremiah's Place in Larimer.

The nursery, which will provide free care for children as old as age 6, is set to open on Monday in the Kingsley Association building. It will accept children from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., but has bedrooms and eventually will provide 24/7 care for children for up to 72 hours, Ross said.

Dr. Lynne Williams, a pediatrician, learned about crisis nurseries from a medical student in 2010 and began working to start one in Pittsburgh with the help of Dr. Tammy Murdock, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Eileen Sharbaugh, a former teacher.

A survey of 78 families from Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods found that 14 percent of parents, at some time during the past year, left their children with someone whose last name they didn't know, whose address they didn't know, who had an anger management problem or who they knew couldn't care for a child, Williams said.

“This is a safe place for your kids to be while you do the right thing,” Williams said. “Sometimes moms know they don't want to leave their kid, but they're so stuck.”

The facility features a “cozy corner,” a sectioned-off area for younger children; an eating area; messy play section; and plenty of toys, all donated, Ross said.

“We really want to give the kids a nurturing environment because they're coming from a crisis,” she said.

Numerous charitable organizations donated money for Jeremiah's Place, including a $100,000 contribution from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The nursery is named after a foster child who was once in the care of Lynne Williams' mother.

Staffers will work with parents to determine what services could help them reduce their need for the crisis nursery.

“There's so many great programs out there, but it can be hard to navigate,” Ross said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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