Work began last weekend to convert an eyesore rental property on North Street into a new Ceres site for the Children's Crisis Center of Stanislaus County.
In service for 32 years, the center gives families in crisis a safe place for the temporary care of children from infant to 18 years of age. Currently, Ceres residents have to seek out services in Modesto, Turlock or Oakdale.
"We serve a lot of Ceres families, so this will make it easier from families in Ceres to get to the services," said Colleen Garcia, the director of the center, which has 93 members on staff, the majority of which are credentialed in early childhood or school age education.
The center's goal is to open after July 1, but obtaining state licensing may push the opening back to Sept. 1. The center is expected to be staffed seven days a week with 12 members to offer care for up to 28 children at a time.
Most of the children served will be coming during the daytime but the site will have the capacity to serve them at night in emergency cases.
The center mostly sees children from families struggling with issues of domestic violence and substance abuse and facing housing needs, such as evictions or foreclosures, said Garcia. In some instances, children are referred to the center as mandated by the court. The most common scenario, however, is where a parent who has had some encounter with police, professional counselors or Child Protective Services and is deemed neglectful of the children but not enough cause to remove them from the home.
"The parents seen are most often very receptive to change," said Garcia. "We have a case management staff that works with parents to help bring about changes."
Garcia said original plans to set up a site in the Almond Terrace Apartments on Evans Road unraveled. When she announced to the Board of Realtors that a Ceres location was needed, agents Cary Pope and Josie Castiglione got involved. That led to Shane Parson contacting the duplex owner about a possible sale so Parson could gift the property to the center. The owner decided to rent the property instead, but Parson agreed to cover the lease payments until the center takes occupancy.
Parson has taken on a personal mission to clean up the block between Fifth and Sixth streets south of North Street and rid it of undesirable tenants. He has been purchasing land and making improvements to the block south of the Clinton Whitmore Mansion. Parson has offered a crew to clean up and make changes to the backyard and fencing. Dustin Pack arranged to have Project Yes students work on clean-up last week.
Garcia said that the center has no construction budget for the center and is relying on community volunteers. She said there is "some momentum going" in the recruiting of professional contractors and suppliers.
"It's not like anybody is doing this for personal gain," she said. "Everybody involved up to this point is wanting to do it because it helps the community and that is an amazing feeling."