Jennifer McMillin, the new executive director of the Mini O’Beirne Crisis Nursery in Springfield, acknowledged that many nonprofit agencies are feeling the pain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From fundraisers to reduced hours to the temporary elimination of volunteers, the 24-hour crisis nursery on the city’s north side has been through the throes of the tumult.
"One thing that is abundantly clear for all nonprofits is that we’re in a challenging situation," said McMillin, who came on board last month. "We’re seeing a lot of our fundraisers be impacted. We just went through the golf outing (being modified).
"Our challenge will be to still meet our mission of preventing child abuse and neglect regardless of what else happens. So when I walked in the door, I was very thankful for our board and our staff included, that they all saw that challenge and were ready to meet that challenge and meet our mission."
McMillin, 35, comes to Mini O’Beirne from the Girl Scouts of Central Illinois where she was the chief development officer. The Decatur resident has spent her career working with nonprofits.
McMillin said one of the byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic could be the stress, particularly on families. That could translate into more needed services.
"We do know that when there is more stress, there’s a greater chance for stressors in the family as well," McMillin said. "We anticipate, I anticipate, we will see an increase in people requesting crisis care as people go back to work and we have also altered how we help families as well, both in response to the CDC and the Sangamon County Health Department guidelines, but also keeping in mind that more families are going to need our services. We’re keeping visits shorter as much as possible so we can still serve as many families even with the reduced hours.
"We’ve also seen a reduction in our hours because of the cleaning we’re going through. We’re keeping all families separate, so unfortunately kids can’t play with other kids while they’re here, but that gives us the chance to fully sanitize our rooms in between visits as well.
"We desperately miss our volunteers as well. We would usually have volunteers coming in to help with child care, helping with tasks in the house, but unfortunately we’re restricted and can’t have them right now."
In addition to emergency child care, Mini O’Beirne, which was founded in 1989, provides crisis counseling, medical and developmental screenings, parent support groups and parent education classes and referrals for food, clothing and shelter.
The agency has 13 full-time and part-time employees, McMillin said.
In late May, staffers and volunteers turned its golf outing into a "No-Golf-Golf-Outing" in light of the pandemic.
Its biggest fundraiser, The Holiday Store, has been around since the infancy of the agency. Last year it attracted around 2,000 shoppers — kids who get a budget and fill out a wish list, then shop with adult volunteers at tables of gifts ranging from $1 to $10. The volunteers help the kids wrap and tag the gifts at the end.
A subcommittee helmed by volunteers, McMillin said, is keeping an eye on The Holiday Store and its direction, and an announcement could be coming in a couple of months.
"One of the things I’m most heartened by," McMillin said, "is we live in a very giving community. Springfield, Sangamon County, central Illinois, we care about each other here and we especially care about children and families. Regardless of what happens around us, people see that we’re a needed service and they value the service we provide to the community.
"While it will be a challenge and we will have to make changes, I think we will still find the support that we need."
McMillin has worked at "education adjacent and early childhood adjacent" jobs her entire career.
One of those stops was at the Education Coalition of Macon County in Decatur where McMillin worked closely with day cares, early childhood educators and health departments.
"For me, (Mini O’Beirne) is a really interesting fit and I get to learn a whole new part of that early childhood world that I never knew before I came here," she said. "It kind of fits another puzzle piece in for me."
McMillin knew Mini O’Beirne by reputation. She had friends at the University of Illinois Springfield and in the community who benefited from Mini O’Beirne’s services.
"When I first started talking to Mini O’Beirne about this position, I knew I didn’t want to come in and change everything," McMillin added. "But I wanted to help them make what they were doing even better. That’s where I see my role: learning everything I can about Mini O’Beirne and making sure we continue to provide that excellent service."
William Holland, president of the crisis nursery’s board of directors, said McMillin’s experience in the nonprofit world and in fundraising was attractive to the board.
"She came to us with a knowledge and a passion for Mini O’Beirne," Holland said. "We thought that was a pretty good mix."
A graduate of UIS, McMillin will continue to live in Decatur with her husband, Tim; son, Charlie, 6; and stepson, Eric, 17.
"What I have found is that my passion lies in making sure families and children have the best possible start," McMillin said. "That kind of goes in between a lot of sectors and through the work I’ve done through the years and the roles that I’ve played, I’ve had an opportunity to learn how to speak different languages and to learn how to translate that nonprofit language into more of a public sector language, to help explain things to legislators, to (the Department of Human Services) and also translating that for business owners, explaining why the work we do is so important in the social sector.
"It’s the perfect spot for me and my skill set."
Contact Steven Spearie: 622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/stevenspearie.
via The State Journal-Register
July 12, 2020 at 07:59PM