Posted April 25, 2012 in Articles
Author: Regina Brett, The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Every time I get to tuck my grandbabies in bed, I whisper to them how much they are loved.
"Who loves you bigger than the sky?"
"Gita," Asher says, naming me first.
"Who loves you bigger than the mountains?"
"Mommy," Asher says.
"Who loves you bigger than the ocean?"
"Daddy," Asher says.
He and his sister, Ainsley, are tucked in every night with hugs and kisses and love.
Not every child is so lucky.
The children who come to Providence House often arrive with everything they own in a blue plastic bag. All of them have been abused or neglected or are on the verge of those.
Providence House is a crisis nursery and a shelter for at-risk babies and children up to 6 years old, children like the 4-year-old who went hungry so often, he hid food to feed his baby sister.
Children like Bobby, who came there after his fourth foster home didn't want him. He came back to Providence House many years later carrying a fire truck with a bow on top. He said to give it to a little boy like him.
"I was here two weeks, but all I remember was my 5th birthday party. It was the first one I ever had," he told the staff. Then he started to cry. "I remember people singing to me and hugging me. It was the first time someone told me, 'I love you.'"
Children like the three who showed up one winter in a van, sitting on black garbage bags filled with their belongings. Their mom had been badly beaten and fled her partner. The children stayed at Providence House for a month while she recovered and found a safe place for them to stay.
Children like the two girls whose mom is dying of leukemia. Their mom grew up in foster care and didn't want her girls sent there. An oncologist introduced their mom to Providence House so they would have somewhere to stay when she is too sick to care for them.
The stories both break your heart and fill it.
One day a woman drove up with a van full of things from the Providence House wish list at www.provhouse.org She cried as she told them that 20 years ago she came there drug- and alcohol-addicted. She and her baby girl had been evicted. She's now clean and sober and got her child back. "I held a baby shower at my office for you because I always swore I would pay you back for helping me," she said.
Another day, a letter came from Iowa. A woman thanked the staff for protecting her and her daughter when she fled an abusive relationship. Inside the envelope was the child's first grade report card. It had an honor roll star on it. "I would never have seen this if Providence House hadn't been there for me and my daughter," she wrote.
Last year Providence House protected 137 children.
Last year, Providence House had to turn 120 children away.
They need help to help more children.
Providence House has launched a $1.8 million, three-phase project. It will put business offices and living areas on one campus. It will allow them to raise the age of children they shelter to 10 years old. It will allow siblings to stay together in one room. It will create a Family Intervention Center to help parents become better parents.
On Sunday, Providence House holds its City2City 5K Child Abuse Prevention Run. Registration is at 8 a.m. The race starts at 9 a.m. at Tower City in downtown Cleveland. It ends at Providence House in Ohio City. Pre-registration is $15; race day. $20. (For information contact Hermes Sports at 216-623-9933 or go tohttp://www.hermescleveland.com/roadracing/events/city2city.asp
Children deserve a safe place to sleep. Let's help Providence House tuck them in so they fall asleep knowing just how much they are loved.
Join Regina Brett at 7 p.m. Wednesdays on WKSU FM/89.7 for "The Regina Brett Show." This week: How to reward employees. To reach Regina Brett: firstname.lastname@example.org, 216-999-6328 Previous columns online: cleveland.com/brett
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