WXXI AM News

Owen's House doubles capacity of Crisis Nursery

May 11, 2018

Credit Beth Adams/WXXI News

A single family home on Rosewood Terrace in Rochester's Beechwood neighborhood is filled with toys, cribs, youth beds, and baby swings. Diapers are stacked to the rafters in the attic. All of these items were donated by community members.

“This is a tangible reflection of what Rochester stands for,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth.

The organization just opened its second Crisis Nursery location. It’s called Owen's House, named in memory of Owen Thomas, the son of Crisis Nursery co-founder Catherine Cerulli and Chris Thomas.

Spaull said Owen, who died in a boating accident on Waneta Lake last summer, served as an inspiration for the Crisis Nursery when he was very young.

"He was a gorgeous, little boy who cried a lot his first three months and (his mother) thought, 'What would I do if I didn't have the support and the love and the economic resources I do; what would I do?' She found out about a program in Minnesota and she mirrored it here."

Like the original Crisis Nursery home on Genesee Park Boulevard, Owen's House will provide temporary emergency care for children whose families have nowhere else to turn.

"What's unique about the clients that we serve is that their crises are all different,” said Faith Davignon, assistant director of counseling and runaway youth services for the Center for Youth. “What's the same is they all lack support."

Four years ago, Faith gained a deeper understanding of her clients' crises when her husband died, leaving her the single parent of an infant and a toddler. Initially, she assumed most of the families who took advantage of the Crisis Nursery’s support were affected by poverty. Her personal experience led her to reach out to other organizations, such as hospice programs, to let parents know that they are not alone. 

Davignon recalled one client, an overwhelmed mother of five, who just needed a break. Others have more chronic problems.  A mother who dropped off her children to deal with a medical crisis eventually confided in Crisis Nursery staff that she was the victim of domestic violence. They referred her to Willow Domestic Violence Center.

This kind of work is not draining or discouraging, Davignon said. It’s quite the opposite.

"Although the phone calls, initially, are very sad, very hopeless, by the time (the parents) get to the front door and they've talked to us for a few minutes and their kids are playing and happy in the environment, we can just see the relief. It's almost immediate."

Owen’s House held a community open house on Friday. It’s located at 464 Rosewood Avenue near Culver Road.