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CHICAGO — One crisis center in Chicago is trying to help parents who need a break by taking their kids off their hands for a little while, and it doesn’t cost them a cent.

The stressors of 2020 are being felt in homes all over the world, and for many single parents taking care of their kids can be overwhelming.

The Maryville Crisis Center is free and open 24/7, 365 days a year to give parents some time away from the demands of their young children while they are juggling so much already. The nursery can take in kids who are six and under for three days at a time, up to 30 days in a year.

Kristin Kugach is 30 years old, works in a restaurant and lives just minutes away from the Maryville Crisis Center. She started bringing her 2-year-old son Jackson two years ago when childcare for the single mom was falling apart. 

“I walked through the doors and it was a wave of peace,” Kugach said. “Before I went here, the first person I spoke to was like, ‘it’s gonna be ok. Take a deep breath. We’re gonna help you. It’s gonna be ok.’”

Chicago’s police Superintendent David Brown, a father himself, and Chicago’s first lady Amy Eshleman, a mother too, read books to a crew of kids at the Maryville nursery while their moms or dads took time off from the often-demanding and tiring role of parent. 

“What does it have to do with law enforcement, public safety, policing? The quick answer is: everything,” Brown said.

It’s as much a place to help prevent crimes inside the home as it is a place for children to simply feel safe. The people behind Maryville believe it can help reduce the incidents of domestic violence.

Brown sees this nursery as a place of hope to lower crime and do a lot of good for the next generation.

“It’s the best part of crime-fighting, the best way to reduce crime is to prevent it from happening in the first place,” Brown said. “And you do that by investing in our kids and our families, especially when they are in crisis.”

The Maryville Crisis Nursery is celebrating its 15th anniversary this weekend. Co-founder Amy Kendal said kids growing up in under-served neighborhoods and in high-stress homes are always the focus. 

The pandemic adds yet another layer of stress and adds a new group of people needing the nursery’s services now more than ever.

“Families who live in non-traditional work environments like in hospitals, [Chicago Nursing Association’s] essential workers have highlighted for us that they have used crisis care on weekends in second and third shifts just to be able to pay for their rent and food,” Kendal said.

Kids get care in a safe place and from people who are happy to see them. With 12 beds in all, the nursery includes cribs, a water play room, reading room, and a playground outdoors so a mom, dad or grandparent can take that break before the pressures and responsibilities of their life break them.

“This is a safe place. and our families need a safe place when they are in crisis,” Kendal said.

If you or someone you know could use the help of the Maryville Crisis Nursery, call their 24-hour helpline at 773-205-3637 or visit their website.