Resolutions of Compassion

For many families, the holidays and New Year mean coming together and celebration. The biggest concern may be checking gifts off everyone’s list and, perhaps, avoiding politics at the dinner table. Yet this is also an important time to recognize families facing crisis in our community. These families are not only trying to make ends meet, they also wonder how they will provide care for their children.

Fortunately, the Yolo Crisis Nursery, a nonprofit dedicated to helping parents and children in crisis, can provide respite care and help for these families. Over nearly two decades, the Nursery has helped over 5,000 children and families in Yolo County. The Nursery understands how an emergency can upend a family and is here to help.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery’s work is best illustrated by its clients’ successes. “Frank,” a loving and hard-working father, was willing to share his remarkable story of how the Nursery helped him during his time of need. Frank suddenly found himself with his world turned upside down. “Mary,” his partner and mother of his 2-year old son “Jack,” went missing. Mary suffers from mental illness, and for reasons unknown, she did not come home.

Frank was devastated by Mary’s departure, as was his son. They were suddenly alone, with no support network. Prior to her departure, Frank worked full-time as a landscaper, while Mary cared for Jack. Their budget was tight, but they got by. Now with Mary gone, Frank was at a tipping point. With no one to care for Jack and no paid leave remaining at work, Frank was between a rock and a hard place — if he stayed at home to care for Jack, he would lose his job.

Thankfully, Frank was willing to ask for help, and a community member referred him to Yolo Crisis Nursery. Frank and Jack were welcomed into the Nursery, and the highly trained staff quickly went to work. Through the intake process, trauma-informed staff identified that Jack was autistic. They quickly coordinated additional medical screenings, check-ups, and initiated other critical services.

The Nursery also provided temporary childcare for Jack, who was nurtured, fed nutritious meals, and enjoyed an enriching curriculum through the onsite preschool. Jack thrived in the Yolo Crisis Nursery’s care, achieving many developmental milestones. Meanwhile, Frank was able to maintain his full-time job, while also working closely with Nursery’s staff to navigate his son’s diagnosis and his childcare crisis. With the Nursery’s help, Frank avoided losing his job and home. Most importantly, he avoided losing Jack.

Recognizing that Frank’s crisis was not temporary, the Nursery also connected him with community resources and helped him find long-term childcare. The Nursery also helped him develop a support network of other parents which help one another through challenges. One of the members of this group even looked after Jack when he had a fever while Frank had to work. Not knowing if or when Mary will return, Frank continues to work to build a better life for himself and his son.

Although every family the Nursery serves is unique, they all have one thing in common — they are in crisis and in need of help. When families are in crisis, young children are the most vulnerable. The statistics are shocking. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that 1 in 7 children experienced abuse and neglect in 2018.

In a recent interview with PBS, California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris said, “the single greatest unaddressed public health threat that is facing our nation today is an issue of early adversity.” These trends make prevention — the very mission of the Yolo Crisis Nursery — critical.

The Yolo Crisis Nursery is here to help all families in crisis with children from birth to 5 years old. Services are voluntary and provided free of charge. The Nursery understands it takes courage for mothers and fathers to ask for help and that these parents are looking out for what is best for their children.

I am honored to be a member of the Yolo Crisis Nursery Board, and as a new father myself, I continue to be amazed by the work the Nursery’s dedicated staff does for families and children in need. The Yolo Crisis Nursery is funded by the generosity of our community.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, the Friends of the Yolo Crisis Nursery, and the families who rely on the Nursery, we extend a heartfelt thank you to our amazing community for your continued support. If Frank’s story resonated with you, we encourage you to take a moment to learn more about the Nursery’s services and consider joining us to help prevent child abuse and neglect in Yolo County. To donate, to learn more or to join us, please visit

— This article was written by Eric Miller a member of the Board of Directors for Yolo Crisis Nursery. The article originally appeared in the Davis Enterprise on Sunday, December 22, 2019.

*For privacy reasons, we changed the client names for this column.

The holidays bring much joy, but for those battling mental illness, the many stresses of the season can be overwhelming.

Early last month, Joan, the mother of a newborn baby, reached out to the nursery seeking respite care. Joan delivered her baby to the nursery, completed the paperwork, and said her goodbyes. When Joan did not return for her baby, it quickly became clear she intended to leave her child for good.

Joan suffers from mental illness and had stopped taking her medications. Thankfully, she had listed her parents as an emergency contact. The nursery sprang into action, located the grandparents of the infant, and helped to locate Joan. The nursery’s wraparound service supported the grandparents with care for the baby, and we helped Joan get the care she needed.

A month later, Joan is in treatment, back on medication and has a new job and a new place to live. And most importantly, she is with her child. Joan recently told us, “I am so thankful for the nursery’s help. Without it, I would have lost my baby.”

It is stories like Joan’s that have made my wife, Chris, and me long-term supporters of the Yolo Crisis Nursery both personally and through our business, Fleet Feet in Davis.

In the fall of 2014, Heidy Kellison and Becky Heard asked me to meet to discuss the Yolo Crisis Nursery. Just a few months earlier, these women had led the charge with their bundles of energy to save the nursery after the sponsoring agency departed Yolo County. This left the nursery in jeopardy of closing after serving the county since 2001.

My first thought was they were looking for a donation, but no, it was me.

The grassroots effort to save the nursery had raised enough money to fund 12 months of operations. However, without a new sponsoring agency, it was decided that the best option for long-term success was to become an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. A charter board of directors was being recruited, and they wanted me, a local business owner and nursery supporter, to join them.

My inclination was to say no as my wife, Chris, and I were on the verge of retirement. Instead, I said yes and committed to two years as a board member. I am now finishing my fourth and final year on the board of directors alongside Becky Heard. I am moving on to retirement to enjoy my family and some travel. Becky will remain actively involved by leading the nursery’s development and community outreach.

I signed up to support the nursery, but the experience has enriched my life. Working with this dedicated group of individuals to help the Yolo Crisis Nursery transition from survive to thrive has been meaningful, satisfying, and educational.

In 2015, our nine-member board was tasked with the job of building a plane as it was flying. The board has now grown to 15 members. The plane is flying just fine, only now it needs to fly farther, faster and higher. I know it will.

The incoming board for 2019 includes five new members who are joining a powerhouse of experience, commitment and passion. It is my pleasure to introduce:

  • Wendy Chason, retired Davis Joint Unified School District teacher and librarian. Wendy dedicated her career to children’s education and now, in retirement, is continuing her commitment to helping Yolo County kids.
  • Penny Howard, real estate agent. Penny has experience in Real Estate and Accounting with Yolo County, with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Penny’s commitment to helping people has been the cornerstone of her career and her life.
  • Eric Miller, attorney with Boutin Jones. Eric is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom II and is active in numerous community and charitable organizations.
  • Will Pro, Owner, Will Pro Construction. Will is a Yolo County native and a third-generation builder with expertise in construction and development.
  • Steven S. Willhoff, CPA and partner at Carbahal and Company, joined the board of directors as treasurer. Steve has a wealth of accounting and tax expertise and is actively engaged in helping the children in our community.

The holidays are about giving, enjoying time with treasured family and friends and being thankful for all we have. I am thankful for my time with the Yolo Crisis Nursery. It has enriched my life, helped my community. I encourage you to be grateful and generous to your loved ones and to those in our community, like Joan, who are struggling this holiday season.

The nursery would not exist without the generosity and support of our community. Investing in the nursery is not just investing in the future of the children we serve, it is investing in the future of our community. To learn more about the Yolo Crisis Nursery, to get involved or to donate, please visit

— J.D. Denton is a retiring member of Yolo Crisis Nursery Board of Directors.