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Crisis Nursery’s decades of caring changes lives of many Valley children

PHOENIX — There are approximately 16,000 Arizona children living in foster care. Many of them find homes through Crisis Nursery in downtown Phoenix.

The shelter sits a stone’s throw away from Maricopa Medical Center, not far from where it originally opened in 1977 on Fillmore Street.

One of the shelter’s founding members, Dr. Kipp Charlton, was inspired to help because “he kept seeing all these children come in who were in horrible situations and needed somewhere to go,” shelter spokeswoman Jory Nance said.

Over the years, KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos have helped raise awareness and donations about the center. The annual collection effort for the shelter is Friday, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“What struck me the most at Crisis Nursery,” Mac Watson said, “was not necessarily the amount of kids that were there, but the ages of kids, from babies all the way up to like 8, 9, 12 -year-olds.”

For Gaydos, the nursery’s importance really hit as he read a book to a little girl last year.

“She was probably 5 years old and she had this surprised look on her face and she said, ‘No one’s ever read me a book before!’ Like Christmas has come early.

“That happens so often,” Nance said. “A lot of these children, their parents didn’t read to them,” Just one- on-one time, that reading a book is so special. Especially, when you live in a group home with lots of other kids.”

When asked what Crisis Nursery needs most, Nance said funding.

“… because then we’re able to allocate what we need in that moment and time.” The nursery also needs shoes (half-sizes, too), sandals and tennis shoes.

Not surprising, they need diapers, especially large sizes. “Five and six sizes, because when they come here, they might be older, but they’re not potty trained.”

When a child comes to the shelter, they are given a 1-foot-by-4-foot plastic storage box for their belongings. Few boxes get filled.

“These kids have the clothes on their backs in many cases,” Mac said, “so they are starting from square one and in some cases they’re starting way below square one.”

Crisis Nursery not only helps children staying at its shelter, it also provides preschool for at-risk children in the downtown neighborhood, as well as extensive care-training for parents.

The 28 children in the infant and the toddler houses have Christmas on their brains. When asked what they want from Santa Claus, most every boy shouted, ‘Dinosaur,” with the exception of one who added, “A chicken!”

“Maybe these kids have a Christmas wish, and we can help deliver that,” Gaydos said, “but we can’t do it by ourselves, so we’re asking everybody who has listened to us, ‘Hey! It’s time to step up this Christmas, so let’s do it!'”

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