Meghan Rewers, MSW '10
Meghan Rewers, LCSW, Executive Director for Crisis Nursery of Effingham County, shares how her experiences at the School of Social Work helped prepare her to meet the needs of her southern Illinois community.
I attended the Eastern Illinois University from 2004-2008 and obtained my Bachelor’s in Family and Consumer Sciences. I then attended the University of Illinois School of Social Work Master’s program from 2008-2010. It was through that program that I was introduced to the Crisis Nursery in Urbana. I began as a volunteer for a few months and then applied for a childcare worker position so I could learn more about the Nursery and spend more time working with children in the program. I fell completely head over heels in love with everything about their program and the impact it had made on the C-U community in its’ 30 years of operation. While working for Crisis Nursery, I couldn’t help thinking how amazing this service would be to have available in southern Illinois. As life would have it, in 2012 my husband went back to school at Eastern Illinois University and we moved back to my hometown of Effingham, IL to move closer to family as we thought about starting our own. I took a great position at our local behavioral health center, Heartland Human Services as an Outpatient Therapist. While there I took my licensing exam and received my LCSW. A little over a year later I took another wonderful opportunity at The Wellness Loft, a private counseling agency. While working there I helped with Redeploy Illinois, which is a grant that supports a diversion program called Problem Solving Court in our area. At this point in my career, I was searching for diverse experiences and was certainly blessed with several great opportunities, but I think in my heart I knew I wanted to land within a program like Crisis Nursery. I had no idea that would come to fruition in the form of starting a completely new program in our area! In 2015 the grant I had been working with was cut to part-time and now I had a very flexible schedule. It was the kind of schedule every new mom dreams about, and I did very much enjoy it. I finally took the leap that had been on my heart for several years. On September 17, 2015 I invited 10 local professionals to come join me to hear about a vision of what I thought would be a huge support to families and children in our community, later to be named the Crisis Nursery of Effingham County. From that small first meeting we formed our core Board of Directors and in July of 2016 our Directors voted to appoint me to be the Executive Director for Crisis Nursery of Effingham County, a role I was completely and utterly overjoyed to take on. I was tasked with the coordination of a building-wide renovation, hiring and training our Prevention Care Staff and completing all necessary requirements to secure our permit and license to operate a Crisis Nursery facility. On March 10, 2017 we officially opened our doors and began bringing Crisis Nursery’s mission to life in Effingham County.
How did you become involved in the creation of Crisis Nursery in Effingham?
It was my experience from Urbana’s Nursery that inspired me to spread the mission of Crisis Nursery and continue to be involved after moving away from C-U. After our initial steering meeting in September 2015 and the incredible response I witnessed from that, I was inspired to keep moving forward to see how far we could take this project. My initial goal was to begin a discussion for the need in our area, but what happened was something more. From that day, this project took on a life of its’ own.
What challenges did you face?
When we began we had a great team of people, our Board of Directors and a vision for what we wanted to accomplish. Our Board of Directors discussed donating money to buy stamps so we could mail out brochures. So, if that tells you anything, I feel like we faced ALL the challenges in the world, but that’s the magical thing with our mission, it brings people and communities together.
I remember thinking, “there is no way we’ll find a building through donation,”…and then someone did. The Family Life Center’s Board, graciously donated the building they used for the Silk Purse Thrift Store that supports their program. Our Nursery’s Board of Directors took on the renovation of our building head on. Each challenge we faced was met with someone that had the know-how or a connection to someone that could help us with different things.
I also remember talking with Stephanie Record, the Executive Director of the Crisis Nursery in Urbana, about a strategy in presenting the idea of a partnership with our local hospital, HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital. I felt like at the time that was a long shot too, until I met with their President and CEO, Theresa Rutherford, Chief Nursing Officer, Kelly Sager and Divisional Director for Marketing, Terriann Tharp. Along with the help of an amazing local pediatrician, Dr. Colleen Bingham, we presented to these core group of leaders at St. Anthony’s our vision, our needs and our goals for this project. Theresa, Kelly, Terriann went above and beyond to help us secure our largest partnership with St. Anthony’s which made the impossible, possible. Thanks to the work and support of these women, Crisis Nursery of Effingham County turned into a reality for our community. When people believe in something, anything is possible.
Is this establishment related to the Champaign Nursery?
Crisis Nursery of Effingham County is an independent program. However, without Stephanie Record and her team’s time, support and resources, we could not have accomplished what we were able to do in such a short amount of time. Each of the Executive Directors at all of the Crisis Nurseries around IL were a huge support and resource to us as we put together our program. They answered countless emails and phone calls as we were digging into our licensing and everyone was willing to share experiences and helpful information with me along the way.
How did your experiences at the University of Illinois School of Social Work help prepare you for this endeavor?
I loved that the School of Social Work program promotes community service as a part of every student’s experience. Without that component, I most likely would have never been introduced to Crisis Nursery in Urbana and wouldn’t be answering this question. That one simple connection, completely changed my life.
For me, the most advantageous part of the MSW program was how multifaceted each program track is. I chose to study School Social Work, and while that is where my training was focused, I also received education in all areas of our field, which I have been able to draw upon and use in my different career experiences. Entering into the real world was terrifying, and when it came time to graduate I had no idea if I was prepared. After almost 10 years I can tell you with confidence this program prepared me more than I ever knew at the time for working as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. The structure and content of the MSW program was current, engaging and educational. I can’t say enough great things about all of the professors, advisers and administrators for the School of Social Work.
What are you most proud of regarding this accomplishment?
This project brought people together to make our Nursery possible and everyday we continue to feel that support as we work to meet the needs of our community. There are no words to describe moments when people showed up and made things happen here. There are so many stories of incredible generosity and compassion and those acts continue to live on through our services each day. In volunteers alone, we’ve met over 500 individuals of all ages that have been a part of creating our space here. That doesn’t include the people that have donated to our program or those that simply share our mission, needs and services with others.
I am most proud that, the way Crisis Nursery of Effingham County brought people together to invest in our community’s future and families that may cross our path near and far. This entire project has been a genuine labor of love and is remarkably special to be a part of right here in my home town.
How is Crisis Nursery making an impact?
Since our opening on March 10, 2017 we have provided care to 64 unduplicated children, over 500 admissions for care, and provided over 4,000 hours of care to children birth through six years of age. Additionally we’ve given out over 700 basic need items such as diapers or formula to families in need. As we continue to operate in Effingham over the next year, we are excited to get to know the needs here and grow to accommodate them.
These are really exciting numbers to see for our Nursery right out of the gate and people sure love to see these numbers. However, Crisis Nursery is not successful based on the number of children served or hours of care provided. Crisis Nursery is much more than that. When families use our services, they add an additional support to their support system. For some families we are a life-line and one of their only supports as they raise their families. For others, we are here for unplanned situations families would have never thought to find themselves in. We keep our ratios of children to adults low, so when a child comes through our doors they are able to receive one-on-one care and attention as we identify their unique needs and get to know them. These strategies are deliberate, as when families and children are stressed or in an immediate crisis, they are at high-risk for life long impacts. Our care and services are meant to act as a buffer and promote healing for children and families from the moment they walk through our doors. To me, our program and the care our Prevention Care Staff give to the children and families we see, is the greatest impact of all.
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