Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wesley Center: "Where all children matter"

The Wesley Center, Inc.
Where “all children matter”
By Shelly Burke, Editor

Years ago Dr. Burkhardt, a faithful member of the Methodist church, willed his home (now 120 years old) to be used as a “mission.” Later another pastor received a grant to provide respite care for parents who were overwhelmed by parenting. Today that house is Wesley Center, Inc., in Norfolk, NE, a mission whose core value is that “all children matter.” Wesley Center is a non-profit organization.

The Wesley Center, Inc. Crisis Nursery began in 1995 with a grant to provide relief to parents who felt they might abuse their children. In 1999 the State of Nebraska realized that children who were removed from their homes due to neglect or abuse needed a place to go until foster care could be found, and they contracted with the Wesley Center to care for those kids.

When a child (or children) is removed from his or her home, Wesley Center is notified. (Wesley Center will take children from anywhere in Nebraska, at any time of the day or night.) The child then lives at Wesley Center until he or she can be placed in a foster home or with appropriate relatives (usually less than two weeks). There are usually 1- 3 or 4 children staying at Wesley Center (there is room for up to 16 children), ranging in age from birth to 19 years old. Older teenagers are included so they can stay with younger siblings.

Tracy Olson, Director since 1999, says the biggest misconception about Wesley Center is that it’s “an orphanage, with bare walls and cots just lined up.” Instead, there are six cozy bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. It’s “home” for the kids, with a regular schedule of meals, playtime, bedtimes, etc. Wesley Center staff members also take children to doctor or other appointments.

Another important service the Wesley Center provides is Respite Care. Foster parents (often caring for several children, some with special needs) who need a break can use the services, which are paid for through a grant from the United Way.

Wesley Center also works with Health and Human Services to provide a location for supervised visitation between parents and children who have been removed from the home. The hope is that these visits will lay the groundwork for families to eventually be reunited, with kids returning to live with their parents.

Wesley Center employs three or four full time employees and eight on-call, part-time people. Three shifts cover round-the-clock care for children.

Tracy says the most rewarding part of working at Wesley Center, for her staff members and herself, is “Interacting with the children. Despite abuse, the kids are loving and just want to play and be kids.” She has had children come back years after they stayed at Wesley Center, to see their old room and staff members who cared for them. She says that occasionally moms will offer gratitude to Wesley Center for caring for their children.

According to Tracy, “It’s hard to see children who are abused and neglected. We know God is angry at the injustice; we pray for wisdom to love and forgive. My faith in God helps keep me strong.” Wesley Center is a safe haven for children who need to feel love and learn about God’s love.

How can You Help? Volunteers are needed; they must undergo rigorous background checks and training.

Tracy says that Wesley Center is a home, so has needs for items every home uses; canned food, frozen meat, paper items like toilet paper and paper towels and so on. Heating bills have been high the last few months so monetary donations are also requested.

Tracy loves to give tours of Wesley Center and will talk with church groups, civil groups, and anyone who is interested in learning more about what they do. For more information or to contact Wesley House, go to http://www.wesleycenterinc.org/ or call (402) 644-4749.

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