Support local children in need this holiday season

By Katie Harris

The Surveyor

It all started in 1960, when a group of church elders took out second mortgages on their homes to purchase 155 acres in rural Longmont.

“These gentlemen decided they knew of some families that were hurting; their kids were being abused or neglected, and the men took that on and said ‘we need to find some land and a way to help those kids,’” said development coordinator for Mountain States Children’s Home, Phil Crews.

By the end of 1960 the deed had been signed, establishing Mountain States Children’s Home as the first orphanage on the Front Range.

“Things have changed a bit over the years,” said Crews. “Now all of our kids have families of some kind, but in many ways they are still orphans because they were being abused or neglected in some way before they came here. They were caring for themselves.”

These days the children’s home has grown to encompass five houses, all situated on the same 155-acre property the organization started out on. The home employs 20 full- and part-time employees, utilizes up to 400 volunteers each year, and can house up to 24 children,, ages 11 to 18, at a time.

“Kids in this age group are the ones who often fall through the cracks and are given up on, but we don’t give up on them,” said Crews. “We see them as being valuable and want them to feel valuable as well.”

According to Crews, nearly all the children at Mountain States Children’s Home are there at the request of their families, either because the family is concerned about the direction the child is heading and decides to intervene, or because the family members themselves are struggling and unable to provide adequate care for the child.

“We try to give them that balance between family life, counseling and schooling while they’re here,” said Crews. On average, children who arrive at the home are several years behind in school, but they can often make up an average of four years in just one year at the on-site school. Since the start of the school in 1998, every student has graduated high school.

In addition to schooling, both kids and families receive counseling throughout their time at the home, providing mediation along with tools for future success.

“Our counselors work through past issues with the kids, and work with their families as well,” said Crews. “As we get to know the kids better we learn what gets them excited and what makes them angry, so we can give their parents guidance on how to raise them when they return home.”

As the holidays approach, many families will put those skills to the test. Several children plan to return to their families for days, or even weeks, this month, while others have chosen to remain at the children’s home. Regardless of their holiday plans, the staff at the home is working hard to ensure each child receives something special to brighten his or her holiday, and any and all support is appreciated.

“Our biggest need ahead of the holidays is gift cards for our kids,” said Crews. “They don’t always have the opportunity to get something new, usually it’s all donated, so this gives them the chance to go out and shop.”

Crews said past residents have also indicated they would have appreciated receiving gift cards to spend on their roommates and house parents at the children’s home, who they couldn’t afford to shop for. Open-ended gift cards, such as Visa and MasterCard gift cards, could serve this purpose as well.

 

The home, which receives no government funding and, though it charges families for services on a sliding scale, often waives all fees due to families’ inability to pay, is also in need of donations year round.

“Our needs are all operational,” said Crews. “We always need food and clothing, and occasionally brand new items such as mattresses and bedspreads as kids come and go.”

In addition, the home needs vans, and funding for vans, in order to transport kids to and from sports practices and various outings. Specific, current needs for each house and the farm itself can be found at www.msch.org/wish-lists/.

Donations of used items can also be made to the Mountain States Children’s Home Thrift Store at 818 Coffman St. in Longmont to fund the needs of the children’s home.

Volunteers are always needed as well, for a variety of projects. The best way to sign up is by calling 303-776-6841. From auto mechanics to horticulturists, to groups interested in painting or repairing fences, there are needs to suit every interest and ability. Skilled tradesmen will soon be needed to assist in the construction of a new home being built on the property, to house even more children in need.

“It’s really neat to see people come together for something like this,” said Crews.” It’s good for the kids to know that these people are doing this all for them, so that they can be here. It’s pretty cool.”

For Crews, the best part of the job he’s held for decades is seeing the children who come through the program regain their trust in the world and start to act like kids again, often in as little as a month.

“This becomes home for these kids,” he said. “They know when they leave here they will always have another group of people to be there for them their whole lives.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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