Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery – funds and volunteers needed

The need for our social services continues to grow. More and more families are seeking assistance; child abuse and neglect in Sangamon County is higher than most in the state of Illinois. 

Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery, which opened its doors in May 1989 cares for more than 2,000 vulnerable children each year. It costs around $548,000 annually to run the nursery and family support programs. With just 30% of its funding coming from United Way, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (IDCFS), and Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), the non-profit relies on community donors, civic and religious organizations, and fundraising events. We spoke with Mini O'Beirne Crisis Nursery executive director Karen Cox about the charity, its needs, and forthcoming fundraising events such as the annual children's holiday store. 

When the nursery opened its doors at 1011 North Seventh Street in Springfield 28 years ago it cared for 400 children in the first year. Now, 14 full and part-time staff cares for five times that number of children. “Our biggest achievement has been and always will be keeping children safe,” said Karen who has been the helm of the non-profit for six years.

The mission of Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery is to prevent child abuse and neglect by providing emergency care for children who may be at risk, or whose parents are experiencing some type of crisis. The nursery is open 24 hours a day, and all services are free.

“Each year we assist 350 families in need and have more 2,000 admissions into the nursery,” said Karen. “These admissions total over 11,000 hours of care each year for children who are at risk and/or for families are in crisis.” The nursery also has a family support program that provides crisis counseling, home visiting, parent classes, support groups, basic needs donations, and referrals for other needed services such as food, housing, medical care etc. “We would like to expand the capacity for the number of children we care for on a daily basis and assist more parents and caregivers as well,” said. “These services require more funding in order to adequately staff programs and provide the highest quality of care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

The nursery is currently most in need of size five and six diapers, baby formula, baby wipes, Shop ‘n Save or Walmart gift cards (for items such as milk, bread, fresh fruit, and meat). Those interested in donating in-kind items can drop them off to the nursery Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Monetary donations can be made online, in person, or by mail.

Mini O’Beirne also organizes fundraising events throughout the year. “Our first ever "Christmas In July" will be held on July 25th from 5.30pm to 7:30pm at Third Presbyterian Church,” said Karen. “On August 6th, a community group will be holding a benefit for MOCN called ‘Rock N Ride Against Child Abuse’ at the Curve Inn.” The nursery’s biggest fundraiser of the year is its children's holiday store with more than 700 volunteers needed. It is the store’s 28th year and will be open daily from Saturday, November 25th through Saturday, December 23rd. “At our holiday store, while parents wait, children find just the right gift (ranging from $1 to $10) for those special people on their list. For many families, it has become an annual tradition for their children to shop at the store. It is a wonderful shopping experience for children and teaches them about the joy of giving to others,” said Karen. The role of the volunteer is to assist the children with their shopping in several ways: if they have a budget, making sure they stick to it while still purchasing an item for everyone on their list; to remind them that they are shopping for someone else; and to help them with writing out the gift tags and ensuring the correct gift is tagged with the right name. “Volunteers often comment that they truly enjoy this volunteer experience and often return year-after-year for this special event.” Interested volunteers should check the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery Facebook page and website to sign up from September.

As well as fundraising efforts, volunteers are vital to the running of the nursery. “Volunteers assist our childcare workers with the children by rocking infants, playing with toddlers, helping with crafts and outdoor activities, and providing one on one attention to the children,” said Karen. Volunteers are also needed to assist with our fundraising events, yard, and minor maintenance projects.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Alex on 217-525-6800. There is a background check process as well as a physical, TB test, and letters of recommendation for the volunteer that are required.