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Florence Crittenton has had struggles, but is navigating COVID-19

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Posted at 7:32 PM, Sep 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 14:40:47-04

HELENA — Florence Crittenton will be holding their Annual Support Our Girls Fundraiser online this year on Sep. 17.

Attendees will be able to pick up a party box at the Fairgrounds that includes appetizers, wine and table decorations.

The online section of the event is from 7:00-8:00 p.m. and will include a closing of the decorated bra auction, raffle drawings and more.

Florence Crittenton has been around for more than 120 years. They found their way through the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. Although it’s been difficult, they are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s been trying times for sure,” said Executive Director Carrie Krepps. “Trying to figure out how you operate and keep operational group living facilities was definitely a challenge early on. And really trying to make decisions very quickly with really small amounts of information.”

Florence Crittenton provides shelter and supportive services to mothers under the age of 21 and their children, mental health services, substance use recovery, parenting education, childcare and preschool and more.

Krepps said their guiding principle during the pandemic has been how to protect those in our care and help them.

“Especially our families in our residential program, can we keep them here and can we keep them safe because this is the safest place for them right now,” said Krepps.

Florence Crittenton never shut down any of their facilities throughout the entire pandemic. They were only able to do so thanks to a dedicated staff and the support of the community.

“That took staff willing to come back into the building day after day during uncertain times. I will never be able to thank our staff enough for their commitment to our organization,” said Krepps.

The nonprofit has received around $50,000 in grant funding from various partner organizations and the state and federal government.

While that may seem like a lot, adapting to COVID health guidelines and covering associated staffing costs is expensive.

“It was very expensive to get our hands on the pieces of PPE that we needed.. A box of gloves was costing us $50 and that adds up really fast,” explained Krepps. “We had to turn one of our areas into a quarantine area. Basically what happens when someone goes on sick now they have to go to the quarantine. Well, you have to staff as a completely separate program. So you're going from running two residential programs to running three. That’s a lot of overtime and there's some hazard pay involved with that.”

Krepps says they’ve also had to make some heartbreaking decisions.

They’ve restricted home visits for those in their residential program in an effort to reduce potential COVID exposure as much as possible, and were forced to close down their childcare facilities for five weeks following COVID guidelines.

Yet throughout the struggles Florence Crittenton has faced the last six months, staff say closing their doors just isn’t an option.

“At the end of the day if you think about the fact that there would have been twelve families that would have been homeless. And if you just get to that human level of the idea of these families that are working so hard right now, and for them to not literally have a place to go during the scariest time of our generation, that alone stops you in your tracks to know closing isn’t an option,” said Krepps.

Florence Crittenton only sees their clients for a snapshot in their lives. They don’t provide all of the answers and can’t solve every societal problem their clients may face. But they can provide a foundation for those families that a better future can be built upon.

The nonprofit has also found a way to safely offer their parenting classes this fall. The first class “Love & Logic for All Ages” kicks off Thursday Sep. 3 at Helena College.

The classes have a sliding pay scale option to ensure the valuable information is available for everyone.