For many years, Lynn Hawkins has wanted to start a home for children who were at risk of abuse and neglect. After working with abused children in Texas she knew she wanted to help children in her own community. When her daughter, Quadhera Simmons, grew and had the same dream they decided it was time to take action. They were tired of hearing stories of children suffering and even dying. “These are the stories that keep you up at night.” Hawkins said.
“I know many organizations do great things but there is a gap. After working with children who have suffered the trauma of abuse I wanted to reach children before abuse happens. Why don’t we do more to reach out to families before the abuse or neglect happens?” They started looking at what other states were doing, and researched crisis nurseries and knew this was a way the community could come together and help. Pinwheel Place was born out of this desire to build a community of people who want to make sure children have the best start in lives and can enjoy all the joys of childhood.
Pinwheel Place’s vision is to provide free and immediate care for children involved in a crisis situation. The mission is to improve the lives of young children by reducing trauma. The goal is to prevent child abuse and neglect in New Jersey by providing a safe and nurturing environment of unconditional love.
“People don’t know what a crisis nursery is, but they still have been reaching out,” Hawkins said. “We want to provide a place where parents can take their kids with no judgement. One of the questions people ask is what constitutes a crisis situation. Whether it’s domestic abuse or if a parent or parents need time to themselves, we will accept any children into Pinwheel Place.
Pinwheel Place is open 24 hours to provide care for the children and also refers people, who are interested, to community agencies to get help. Pinwheel Place is designed to help parents or caregivers who are unable to provide safe shelter and care for children ages 0-5.
“We are not a day care, but a safe place,” “We are not a shelter. When people walk in and see the nursery, we want them to be like ‘wow’. We want it to create warm and fuzzy feelings and for the kids to be excited about coming to see us.”
In 2017, Child Protection and Permanency received 87,574 reports of alleged child abuse and neglect in New Jersey. “A lot of these parents are good parents, they just need help. “We want them to bring their child or children to the crisis nursery and go and take care of what they need to take care of without having to turn to the system. We want to give them a support system that otherwise they would not have. This strengthens their family and then in turn our community. Our goal of course is to help many, many children but if we save at least one child, it is worth it.”
“We aren’t going to ask any questions. This will be a no judgment place. We understand a crisis situation means something different to everyone. We have been talking to local agencies to let them know we are here for their families and they have reciprocated by letting us know we can refer families to them. We can all help each other out and in turn the families.”
Pinwheel Place is funded by private donations, fundraiser and some corporate grants. You can invest in children’s futures at www.pinwheelplace.org or by sending a check to Pinwheel Place at PO Box 257, Red Bank, NJ 07701. It will be staffed by volunteers. All volunteers will undergo extensive background checks. To apply to be a volunteer, go to the Pinwheel Place website and fill out an application. Again the website is www.pinwheelplace.org.