How it started:
Sara Bond, our vice president, worked as a CASA volunteer. She was working on a case of 4 siblings who were very close, but unfortunately separated. One was a teenager, the others were younger. The teenager was moved 45 times and the younger siblings were all adopted to different families. Sara wanted to do something more and involve her husband Shawn. His response was "All I would want to do is bring them home." He realized one morning that what he could do was actually build them a home. This is when the idea really started to develop. (CASA stands for court appointed special advocacy)
Who we are:
The Night's Shield is a children's shelter that provides a safe haven for children that have been abused, neglected or abandoned. We are an 'in-between' home from their displacement to their new placement in foster care. During their stay at the shelter, we provide children with a bedroom, clothing, food, education and physical activities.
The shelter has an east and west wing. The east wing is mainly executive staff, but also has class rooms and a visitation room used for area agencies to hold supervised visitations. Our west wing has 8 bedrooms that can hold 2 children, a nursery and toddler room. We also have a game room, activity room, kitchen, dining room, class rooms and a fenced in play area outside. We currently have 41 staff members, 21 full time employees and 20 part time employees. 3 volunteers that help with childcare.
Where we are:
The shelter is in West Frankfort, Illinois, on East Garland Street. It is housed in the Roan Center, named after Gary Roan of Franklin County who had donated $125K that ultimately began renovations on the facility that was donated by Shay Bellows from Chicago with the help of Glenn Poshard and the Poshard Foundation.
Who we serve:
We accept children from the entire state of Illinois. To date, we have helped 740 children from 41 counties. We are the state's after hours shelter for the 5A area of Effingham to Cairo and river to river. The children can be newborn to 18. As a primary goal to keep sibling group together during this time, we are proud to report that we have kept 135 sibling groups together since our opening in August of 2009.
How long do children stay?
They can stay from a day to as long as needed. Our average stay is two weeks.
Does our occupancy change with the economy?
We have only been running since August of 2009. But, no, in our experience, child abuse happens every day. We haven't shown a decline or rise necessarily with the economy. However, we have shown a bit of a rise in occupancy during the spring and summer, but for the rest of the year, it does fluctuate.
How can people help?
• Donations such as clothing and canned foods are always helpful.
• We are always looking for volunteers to help with child care at the shelter. We also need volunteers to help with things like homework, physical education, art, music, housekeeping, lawn care, and special occasions.
• People can also donate dollars and gift cards. Gift cards help in areas when we have certain needs that are hard to come by through random donations, for instance a birthday celebration at Pizza Hut or size 12 shoes.
• Volunteers are also needed for fundraisers that we hold throughout the year and for fundraisers that are held for us. We are always looking for items to raffle such as baskets, mini vacations, dinners and things like that.
When a child leaves...
Every child leaves with a backpack, a pillow, blanket, book or stuffed animal of their choice. We want them to feel like they have something that is theirs to keep no matter where they go.
Plans for the Future:
We have a realized there is a need for us to expand. We have plans to have an education facility with equipped classrooms and a basketball/tennis courts for outdoor fenced in area. Children do not miss a beat if they are at the shelter during the school year so we want to be able to continue their education during their stay to the best of our abilities. After 5 days, of course, they are enrolled in West Frankfort public school. We also realize the need for transitional living facilities. This is where teens would live and learn life skills in order to maximize their knowledge on what it takes to maintain a household. We plan on building two units for transitional living.