Stories featured in The Union

All children deserve a safe space, free from violence

By Jeff Ackerman
October 18, 2011

They didn't have a KARE Crisis Nursery when I was growing up. At least not that my mother was aware of. Maybe that's why she stayed so long ... too long ... in an abusive relationship that would eventually kill her.

Perhaps that's why I walked out of a perfectly safe bathroom Saturday night dressed only in boxer shorts, boots, gloves and a robe and paraded in front of more than a few strangers who had gathered to support a place where kids can be safe from grown-up monsters.

Dr. Sarah Woerner, who was my 27-year-old daughter Kelli's pediatrician when she was a toddler, invited me to be a model for the annual KARE Crisis Nursery's celebrity dinner, costume/fashion show and thought it would be a great idea to dress me up like a boxer, since I have never shied away from a good fight ... or two, or three. The invitation came maybe three months ago and maybe I thought Sarah would forget about it.

Then the e-mails started arriving from her with instructions, a script and costume details, causing me to utter more than one, "Holy Mother of God. What have I gotten myself into this time?"

Sarah, it turns out, is very organized and has been blessed with a long memory.

There might be 1,000 things I'd rather do on a Saturday night than parade around a swimming pool in front of strangers dressed like a washed up boxer who may have reached his prime 30 years earlier. Sleeping comes to mind. So does sitting on the couch and watching re-runs of "Deadliest Catch."

Then I thought about the mission of the KARE Crisis Nursery a bit more (we'd published a front page story earlier in the week) and I knew I just had to go. The other "models" for the night included Supervisor Ed Scofield dressed like Julius Caesar, so I knew I wouldn't be alone in my embarrassment, but without the re-election votes at stake.

In a nutshell, the nursery is a safe place for kids at a time when the people most responsible for them are most likely misbehaving badly. I've seen firsthand how badly those people can misbehave and I often wonder how I survived without a safe place to go. The closet thing I came to that was the time my older sister and I were dropped off at a Catholic orphanage in New York City. My parents returned for us a few weeks later and I'm still not sure that was for the better.

Maybe that explains why I've been fighting so long. There are many among my generation and before who had to figure things out early in life, scrapping and struggling for every single drop. No complaints, but it does put a different perspective on life and what we think we are entitled to.

Children are entitled to at least a chance to be children; to live in a home free from violence; to enjoy all the things that come with becoming a "whole" human being. The Boys and Girls Club of America eventually became that place for me. A few years ago I was fortunate to be invited to that organization's national convention in New Orleans and I remember one of the keynote speakers talking about the club's mission. He used a paper doll to illustrate a child and how - throughout the day - tiny pieces were ripped from that child.

"Then ... when school is out ... they show up at our doors and we have two hours to put all the pieces back together," the speaker recalled. "And it starts all over the next day."

I'm sure school teachers can more than relate to that. The great ones - and there are many great teachers among us - spend all day trying to put those pieces back together in a society that seems to be getting more fractured by the day.

Founded in 2005, the nursery is actually a house in Nevada City. Its location is secret because they don't want the monsters to know where it is. According to its website, Child Protective Services has received calls involving more than 5,200 children and more than a third of them newborn to 6 years old, the age group KARE Crisis Nursery serves.

"Our purpose, first and foremost, is to do all we can to help prevent child abuse and/or neglect BEFORE it happens," reads the nursery literature. "We are here to provide respite to parents/caregivers and shelter and nurturing for the children."

And that takes money at a time when money is short, which is why I wore boxing gloves and shorts by a swimming pool Saturday night. The event was hosted by Jim and Carol Young at Rincon Del Rio, a spectacular home they hope to one day incorporate into a senior living community. The Youngs have hosted many nonprofit events at their 10,000-square-foot home and a lot of love went into Saturday night's special event.

I thank them for that and offer a giant portion of support for Sarah and the heroes behind the KARE Crisis Nursery for their efforts to keep our children safe. It's a beautiful organization with a beautiful mission and they need your support. To do that, you can contact them at 265-0693, or find them on the Web at

When the bough breaks:
KARE Crisis Nursery is there in an emergency

By Cory Fisher
October 11, 2011

Whitney Scott found herself in a tough spot. The single mother of three needed childcare and she needed it fast. Her 5-year-old son had developed kidney stones and was in a great deal of pain.

Where could she take her other kids, ages 1 and 3 while she spent time at the hospital? Fortunately, in Nevada County, there's an easy answer: the KARE Crisis Nursery.

Since opening its doors in 2005, hundreds of families have taken advantage of the nonprofit's 24-hour respite care facility, which is designed to provide safe and nurturing care for small children whose families find themselves in a stressful situation.

"Our numbers have skyrocketed in the past three years as a result of the economy," said Lynn Woerner, the KARE Crisis Nursery's executive director. "We're seeing a lot more people who are desperate with nowhere to turn."

In a crisis, children up to the age of 6 can be placed in the KARE Crisis Nursery for as many as 30 days and nights while their parents are assisted with the resources needed to provide a stable home. In addition, the nursery provides up to 30 days of emergency daytime childcare during a six-month period. They also oversee court-mandated supervised visits and parent exchanges in a cozy home-like environment.

Unfortunately, all of this takes money.

Although founded and originally funded by Soroptimist International of Grass Valley, the KARE Crisis Nursery's funding sources now also include various grants, contracts, organizations, clubs, businesses, faith communities, private donations and - most importantly - fundraising events.

On Saturday, Oct. 15, the nursery's second annual fundraiser, "The KARE Affair," a gala dinner, celebrity costume fashion show and auction, will be at the 200-acre Rincon Del Rio Estate on the Bear River. The gala includes a hosted bar, full catered dinner with wine and a silent auction. The much-anticipated highlight will be a costume fashion show, featuring 13 of the county's "most colorful citizens." Models include Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital president Katherine Medeiros, KVMR disc jockey Jerianne Van Dyck, The Union publisher Jeff Ackerman and others. Costumes will be auctioned off.

"It was so much fun at last year's fundraiser that we just had to do it again," Woerner said. "And we could certainly use the support now more than ever."

Recent families who have taken advantage of the nursery's resources include a mother in treatment for substance abuse, a homeless mother of three who had been living in a tent and children whose parents where treated for smoke inhalation due to a house fire.

In addition, many parents seek daytime childcare while searching for jobs, Woerner said.

Roughly 85 to 90 percent of the children who come to KARE Crisis Nursery have experienced some kind of trauma, Woerner said, and the staff is trained and carefully screened to effectively deal with such cases.

Dr. Sarah Woerner, a local physician and the nursery's community liaison, is often on hand to see children who don't often get regular check-ups. She also happens to be the executive director's sister-in-law.

"I've seen a lot of successes - parents are choosing to use the nursery to head off crises," Lynn Woerner said. "We get people from all walks of life here. There's no judgment; we're really very loving. We encompass everyone."

Once children get settled in they often don't want to leave, she added. The former home - now remodeled for its current purposes - has a big backyard with a circular bike path, bikes and a food garden. The nurturing environment puts parents at ease.

"I can't tell you what an impact this program has had on people's lives. Fundraisers like our upcoming gala make a world of difference," Lynn Woerner said. "I just love my job, but at times I find myself standing in my kitchen with tears running down my cheeks. Some are sad tears and some are incredibly happy."

Show you KARE
Gala coming up Saturday

October 12, 2010

Editor's note: Lynn Woerner is executive director of KARE Crisis Nursery.

What is your mission statement?

To prevent child abuse and/or neglect, one child at a time.

What is your nonprofit's history?

The idea to open a Crisis Nursery in Nevada County was formed 10 years ago by the Soroptimist International of Grass Valley, after hearing a presentation on the Crisis Nursery in Sacramento. After forming a board and gaining legal non profit status, KARE (which stands for "Kids' Assistance and Respite in Emergencies) was able to purchase a home with the assistance of a block grant. We opened our doors in 2004, and have been serving families ever since.

Who is your primary audience?

Any child who is between birth and 6 years of age can come to the nursery if the family is falling on hard times. The children can stay for an hour or two, several hours, or up to 30 days and nights. Services are provided free of charge, and while the children are at the nursery, their parents are linked to resources to help them improve their living situations or help resolve whatever crisis or emergency they are facing. There are currently no crisis nurseries in Yuba or Placer Counties, so we help families in our area as well as neighboring counties.

Name your three biggest achievements in your nonprofit's history.

1) Providing services to 453 children to date (more than 17,000 hours of service) 2) Purchasing and maintaining a home and yard, and 3) Providing Christmas and birthday celebrations to children and their families.

Name your three biggest challenges in your nonprofit's history.

1) Funding - keeping the nursery funded in times of decreased resources. 2) Staffing - The one thing we know about crisis' and emergencies is that they are not predictable, so our staff needs to be available at a moment's notice! 3) Trying to ensure that these families have access to all the resources needed to move forward.

Name your No. 1 short-term goal.

Encourage folks to join our KARE Partner family.

Name your No. 1 long-term goal.

To become fully sustainable and able to continue to offer all the services needed by the children and families in our community!

If a community member is interested in your organization, what is the best way they can help?

Contact us through our website:

What are your major fundraisers?

Coming up on Saturday, Oct. 16 - An evening on the Bear River - gala dinner and costume fashion show and auction. It should be extremely entertaining. We also will be hosting the Karibean Kasino Night next April.

Contact information:

Office: (530) 265-0693

Emergency cell:

(530) 575-1567

KARE Crisis Nursery

P.O. Box 2080

Grass Valley, CA 95945

Refuge for troubled times
Nursery helps families in crisis deal with young kids

By Dave Moller
January 25, 2007

Have you ever wanted to be physical with your child because he or she just wouldn't be quiet during a family crisis?

What do you do when you and your spouse are in the emergency room and you need a place for your child to spend the night?

Have you ever had your day-care facility close without notice?

If you can relate to any of these questions, you could have used the KARE Crisis Nursery, a south Nevada County nonprofit that deals with kids up to 6 years old whose families are in a rough spot.

Executive Director Lynn Woerner said that many referrals come through the courts and involve parents mired in drugs who need a hand getting on their feet. But a lot of people who walk through the door are law-abiding, living comfortably and are in the middle of a marriage or personal crisis.

"I wish it was around when I had my kids," said Berni Strohbin, a trained senior child-care worker at the nursery. "I'm a good mom, but there were times I would have used it. You can come to the breaking point."

KARE Crisis Nursery is all about eliminating that breaking point, Woerner said.

"We prevent child abuse before it happens, and we connect (parents or guardians) to community services," Woerner said. "We've had homeless children, and we've helped moms through (drug) rehabilitation, watched their kids when they attended meetings."

One mother even used the discreet facility while she was in the federal witness protection program.

"She needed help with her kids while she got her (college) degree," Woerner said.

The nursery's almost always free services are in a nice home in a quiet neighborhood, staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can be used up to 30 days at a time in any six-month period.

The cut-off prevents people from leaving their children at the site forever, which has not happened yet, Woerner said. If a child stays for a period of days, the parents must contact them each day and visit every other day.

A lot of the families and children are referred to the nursery by doctors, clinics and Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, Woerner said. The only people who pay are those in quick need of day care who drop by. They are asked to do so on a sliding scale.

All others in crisis don't have to pay, but the nursery can't just run on the vast amount of love shown and generated there. The nursery's original grant is drying up, and although Woerner will apply for more, she would like to see the community donate funds - along with the material goods.

"It costs a ton to run this place - $780 a day when we have six kids," Woerner said. "We don't want to rely on grants all the time, we want community involvement."

If you can't help with building and payroll expenses, you can donate your time and help with child care or even yard work, Woerner said. Volunteers need to pass a background check.

The facility has a large backyard that needs to be taken care. It has a bike path, a children's garden and an outdoor play room with lights.

Court-ordered visitations are also offered in a separate room of the facility by Clea Lassiter, the supervised visitation monitor. Supervised visitations suggested by any other agency or professional can also be dealt with at the facility.

The visits involve only one parent and are confidential, but Lassiter does take notes for the courts and the clients who may need the information down the line.

"We meet in this room or go outside," Lassiter said, and occasionally, she will meet the person at a neutral site.

Overall, "It's a home environment where the kids can be safe and the staff is trained in (dealing with) high-risk kids," Woerner said. "There's lots of reading and lots of nurturing."

To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-ail, or call 477-4237.

Taking KARE of kids in times of need
Nursery to house youngsters when families are in crisis

February 24, 2005

It's being billed as a place of tender loving care for children who, once they enter the doors of the remodeled two-story home, may need it the most.

Each of the three bedrooms at the new KARE Crisis Nursery has been decorated in a theme that sparks thoughts of joy, not of the troubles that led them there.

When it opens next month, the home near Nevada Union High School will be the first of its kind in Nevada County to serve children who need temporary shelter while their parents or guardians work through emergencies that require them to be away for extended periods of time.

For the backers of the Kids Assistance and Respite in Emergencies Nursery, next month's opening represents the culmination of a five-year journey and an important step in establishing a service that nearby communities have been providing for years.

"People have been excited about this for a long time, particularly the type of people I work with," said Mary Graebner, president of the nursery's board of directors and a Nevada County public health nurse.

Bringing your child to the nursery is voluntary and isn't meant to be punitive in any way, Graebner said.

"We're here to help parents get the services they need and make sure the children have a safe place to stay."

Making the two-story home into a safe and inviting place for six children took five years of fund raising, hundreds of hours of volunteer time and nearly $750,000 for construction and program costs, Graebner said.

 About the nursery
Facts about the KARE Crisis Nursery, which opens next month:

• It will provide temporary emergency shelter for up to six children, from newborn to age 6.

• Those who come to the nursery can stay up to 30 days.

• There is no cost to bring your child to the nursery.

• The nursery provides meals and programs for children.

• Children with disabilities and communicable diseases cannot be served by the nursery.

For more information about the KARE Crisis Nursery, call 265-0693.
When it opens, the facility will employ 15 child-care providers and staff.

Children who come to the home may stay for free for as long as 30 days or as little as a few hours.

Strolling through each of the rooms and the expansive back yard, one gets the feeling that children might not want to leave once they arrive. The bedrooms and the living room were decorated by volunteers.

One room, decorated by the Bear River Lionesses, is decked out almost entirely in a jungle theme, with stuffed animals and "Lion King" bedspreads. Another room decorated by a local Soroptimists chapter is studded with teddy bears. The child's bathroom features a "Finding Nemo" motif.

Out in the back yard, children can walk inside a play house or climb ropes on a pirate ship and relax in the crow's nest.

They can even get their hands dirty inside "Dale's Garden," a vegetable garden dedicated to Dale Perry, a former Grass Valley patient of pediatrician Sarah Woerner, who has volunteered at the crisis nursery.

"Hopefully, children will have so much fun, they'll forget why they're here. It will hopefully be like having another member of the family taking care of them," Woerner said.

Children who come to the crisis nursery can be outfitted with new and donated clothes that already are stacked to the garage ceiling. Everyone who leaves the nursery will do so with a new teddy bear.

Fran Freedle, one of the nursery's key coordinators, acknowledged that the demand for the nursery's services is probably greater than they can provide. There will be a waiting list once the nursery opens.

"In a perfect world, we would like it so we wouldn't need to serve anybody," Graebner said.

Linda Neely, program counselor for the Nevada County Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition, said the nursery will offer peace of mind to the parents and guardians who seek a respite at the nonprofit's shelter for battered individuals.

"It will take the burden off of parents who have to drag their children through a difficult time," she said.

In establishing the KARE Crisis Nursery, Nevada County joins nearby counties in providing similar services to a young population.

Two similar shelters exist in Sacramento to provide emergency services for as many as 24 children up to age 6. Placer and Yolo counties also offer similar programs.


KARE Crisis Nursery Inc.
P.O. Box 2080 Grass Valley, CA 95945
(530) 265-0693