Alton, IL- GCS Credit Union employees joined together to raise $1,060 in the month of March to benefit the organization Refuge4Kids. This non-profit organization believes that the love and support of just one adult can counteract the effect of violence in a child’s life.
In an ongoing effort to support the community, GCS employees participate in Jeans Days each month. In exchange for a donation of $15 or more, employees were allowed to wear jeans on Fridays and Saturdays.
Refuge4Kids provides a safe place for domestic violence victims and has served over 150 families by using a trauma-informed care model that helps build a healthy foundation for a child’s future.
Refuge4Kids services include weekly family or child therapy, caregiver case management, and parent education groups. Refuge4Kids believes that everyone in the community has a part to play and everyone’s participation is needed to truly provide safe surroundings. It takes $1,500 to support a child and family that is receiving these services, which is why they rely on donations from the community.
To learn more about Refuge4Kids, visit Refuge4Kids.org. To find out more about GCS Credit Union, visit myGCScu.com.
Riverbend Family Ministries Executive Director, Tammy Iskarous and Refuge’s Executive Director, Erin Bickle are visiting an orphanage in Egypt called, The Littlest Lamb. They provide a safe environment for children who’ve lost either one parent or both and give them the necessary tools to be leading members of the Egyptian society.
Iskarous says this will not be her first trip there, she went there a few years back with her husband, “We walked the halls of this orphanage and have seen just how loved these children are by the staff and care givers,” Iskarous said. “The Littlest Lamb caregivers are all intentional about the safekeeping and emotional stability of these kiddos that otherwise would be left to fend for themselves on the streets of Egypt.”
Iskarous said her and her husband had planned on going back for another personal mission trip ever since they left, but this time they wanted to share the experience with friends. She thought, who better to share it with than, Refuge’s Executive Director, Erin Bickle and her husband? They’re using this trip as a personal mission trip with intentions to share their knowledge and also take away knowledge that they learn from the amazing the team at Littlest Lamb.
“I am not only excited to be able to take friends there to witness The Littlest Lambs great work, I am blessed to be able to share with them the people and culture I love,” said Iskarous. “We’re honored to be able to go over and train their team to be more trauma informed and focused, which they’re already doing really well.”
“I’m so honored to take part in this experience, I feel like our values align with their cause and we’ll learn a lot from each other,” said Bickle. “Children are our future and protecting them is everyone’s job.”
According to their website, there are an estimated 1 million orphans in Egypt and an additional 3 million street children. In Egypt, adoption is not recognized, therefore these children do not have many options. But this non-profit provides these children with shelter, food, clothing, education, attention and love. Their building can house up to 150 children and caretakers. It also has a library, computer room, dining room and kitchen.
Similar to Refuge’s holistic strategies, The Littlest Lamb believes in the following: home, education, health and well-being, instill values and social skills. Their number one goal is to lead the children to become leading members of the Egypt society and end the stigma that goes with being an orphan.
If you’d like to learn more about The Littles Lamb, visit their website: www.littleslamb.org.
Children experience a variety of difficult challenges when their parents separate or divorce. How can they learn to cope with these changes and realize they are not alone? Refuge is now offering a 12 week divorce care group for children called, Divorce Care for Children.
This group will help minimize behavioral and emotional patterns that may result when children experience divorce. It'll also increase ability to identify and appropriately express divorce-related feelings, reduce anxiety and worry children experience about their family circumstances and build confidence and specific skills to help children cope in a supportive environment.
Where: 131 East Ferguson Ave. Wood River, IL 62095
When: Tuesday 5pm-6pm and 6p-7pm AND Thursdays from 6-7pm
Who: Groups Kindergarten through sixth grade (the children will be divided into three groups based on grade level).
Call today to schedule your intake and help your child find hope, healing and support: (618) 251-9790 Ext. 203
*This group is offered at no cost thanks to the generosity of Refuge donors.
Click here for the syllabus.
Refuge received a puppy as a donation to be used as their new therapy dog. The Double Doodle puppy named Ellie Mae joined their team this summer on June 14th.
“Children don’t process like adults do in therapy sessions; we observe their behaviors more through their artwork and how they play, now that Ellie Mae is here, we can also observe how they interact with her,” said Refuge Executive Director, Erin Bickle. “I’ve worked with therapy dogs before and have seen children tell them things they don’t feel comfortable telling adults, it’s our job to observe their behavior with the dog.”
Bickle says there’s a lot of research to support how having a therapy dog can help better the recovery process. There are countless ways that they can be useful in therapy, some of them are: helps lower blood pressure, lifts spirits and lessens depression, encourages communication, provides comfort, helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders, creates motivation for clients to recover faster and reduces loneliness.
They’re working with a certified therapy dog coach, Claire Clark with Soul Dog Canine Education. The type of training is called, “Bond-Based Choice Teaching.” Once she’s completed all of the training, Ellie will work with the children one-on-one and their families.
“Anything you can teach a three-year-old, you can teach your dog, they’re super smart,” said Clark. “We want to build her confidence during these brain exercises, all their bad behaviors go away because they’re getting so much more positive attention and they become a well adjusted member of the family.”
“Our goal is to show the children all the wonderful things she’s learned once she’s certified, they’ll be shocked to see her know letters and colors,” said Bickle.
Refuge is a self-funded nonprofit located downtown Wood River inside the Riverbend Family Ministries office. They serve children and families in Madison County who’ve been exposed to childhood abuse. They help address and prevent childhood abuse and violence exposure with therapy and training.
For more information on certification on the dog therapy programs, visit:
The Alton Exchange Club members wrote their last check to a local nonprofit at their final meeting. After serving the Alton area, they finally decided it was time to shut down their doors. For their final meeting, the group invited Erin Bickle, Executive Director of the local nonprofit, Refuge to speak and handed her a check for $6,000.
“Our mission has always been to look out for our youth, that includes ensuring they have a safe environment to learn and grow up in, and that’s why we were really impressed with the work Refuge does in our community,” said Roger Queen, Alton Exchange Club President. “After reading about Refuge in the newspaper, I knew it was a worthwhile program and we had to help them out.”
Back in 1976 the National president of The Exchange Club created a cause called, “Prevention of Child Abuse,” and setup centers throughout the United States to work with families in need.
“My eyes filled up with tears as they handed me the check,” said Bickle. “Their dedication in making sure the youth are looked after and have a safe environment to thrive in motivates me even more to do the work we do, and that’s to keep children in a healthy environment.”
Bickle says we typically parent how we were parented until we learn a different way. The Refuge program helps break that cycle with their weekly child/family therapy sessions and the ten week parent education classes.
“We’ve been serving the Alton area for more than 90 years, so it’s sad to close our doors, however, learning about programs like Refuge makes us realize the community will continue some of the most important values the Exchange Club represents, and that’s looking after our youth,” said Queen.
Refuge is located at the Riverbend Family Ministries office downtown Wood River at 131 E. Ferguson Ave. If you, or someone you know is interested in their services, call (618) 251-9790.
Refuge is hosting their 2nd Annual Golf Scramble on Friday, September 29th at Belk Park Golf Course. The registration deadline is Friday, September 22.
The four-person team entry is $300 and includes range balls, dinner following play, five drink tickets, golf carts and opportunity to win raffle prizes.
“I’m so thankful to have a board that works as hard as they do, they did such an amazing job organizing last year’s golf scramble, we decided to do it again,” said Refuge Executive Director, Erin Bickle. “We’re expecting to have even more teams sign up this year.”
Sponsorship levels are: Event Sponsor ($1,000), Dinner Sponsor ($500), Beverage Cart Sponsor ($250) and Hole Sponsor ($100). Sponsor’s banner/sign will be used if available. If banner/sign is unavailable, organizers will obtain small signs. Larger signs for event sponsors will be provided by sponsors.
Participants interested in registering for a team, or becoming a sponsor can contact Emileigh Ziebka at (618) 558-3465 or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proceeds from the golf outing benefits Refuge, which is a self-funded nonprofit. Refuge is a nonprofit that serves children and families in Madison County who’ve been exposed to childhood abuse. They help address and prevent childhood abuse and violence exposure with therapy and training.
Our Refuge family is excited to announce the arrival of our new therapy dog, Ellie Mae. She will join our family on June 14th and will be a working therapy dog. We believe she will play an important part to our team because she brings something most humans can never provide - a furry body to cuddle!
We plan on incorporating her into our regular scheduled appointments with our kiddos and their caregivers.
There is a lot of research to support how having a therapy dog can help provide the following:
- Lower blood pressure
- Release endorphins and calms the mind
- Diminishes overall physical pain, reducing amount of medication needed
- Lifts spirits and lessens depression
- Encourages communication
- Provides comfort
- Increases socialization and sense of community
- Decreases anxiety
- Helps children overcome speech and emotional disorders
- Creates motivation for clients to recover faster
- Reduces loneliness
- Helps children focus better
REFUGE RECEIVES COMMUNITY GRANT FROM SAM’S CLUB
The non-profit, Refuge received a Community Grant Program check for $2,500 from their community Sam’s Club located in Glen Carbon, Illinois.
Refuge is a non-profit organization that serves the children in Madison County who are abused or neglected. They provide full service therapy and resources for to the children who are suffering and also their families to ensure a healthy recovery.
“We believe that everyone in the community has a part to play in this, and without everyone’s participation, we will not provide the safe surroundings and refuge that all children deserve,” said Refuge Executive Director, Erin Bickle. “Receiving the grant money from Sam’s Club means the world to us and we would not exist without generous donations like the one we received today, we feel truly blessed.”
Illinois is leading in the top 5 states of child deaths due to abuse and neglect. In 2014 there were almost 600 indicated victims of child abuse and more than 1,300 orders of protection granted in Madison County.
“We loved the mission and work that Refuge provides for our community and wanted to help out through the grant, “ said Geri Thompson, Accounting Office Team Lead, Sam’s Club in Glen Carbon. “Our mission is to stay active in our community because we feel possibilities are endless when people come together to help one another out in times of need.”
“What makes us unique is, we don’t just treat the children, we give support to the guardian of the children, which sometimes can be their grandmother, aunt, uncle or neighbor,” said Bickle. “These children are in your neighborhoods, churches and schools. We all want happy and healthy children, it only takes one loving adult to change a child’s life.”
Refuge provides individualized care through these services: Weekly Child/Family Therapy, Parent/Caregiver Case Management and Parent Education Groups. It has served more than 100 families with their counseling services since February 2015, helping many flee domestic violence and relationships and build healthier futures for their children. Refuge receives referrals from schools, police departments, doctor offices, DFCS and other community resources.