Oakdale’s Children’s Crisis Center Guardian House has been helping children when they need it most since 2002, but now they are getting some help to keep their doors open.
Guardian House is one of five children’s shelters operating as part of the Children’s Crisis Center. The Oakdale house provides care for children in any kind of family crisis situation. The goal is to help children and families with potential risk for abuse before children are harmed. This could mean caring for children overnight if the family is homeless, taking them for a few hours during the day while parents are at a counseling appointment, or any number of reasons.
“You’re starting to see a lot more who need the help, and a big part of that is the economy,” said Jovita Wilmes, manager of Guardian House.
Children up to 17-years-old can receive care at Guardian House but teens are screened and most children at the shelter are younger. They can stay overnight if needed and there is no limit to how long children can stay at Guardian House. The home itself is huge, with play space and multiple bedrooms on both floors. Every room was decorated with a kid-friendly theme and there are murals on almost every wall.
“The kids feel warm and comfortable when they come in, we try to make it feel like home,” said Elsie Martin, founder of Guardian House.
The home-like feel extends to meals too, which are all prepared on-site by a nutritionist. Wilmes said that many of the children who spend time at Guardian House have never experienced a clean and orderly home with so many toys and food available.
“They ask if they can stay here forever,” Wilmes said.
Guardian House was founded by Elsie and her husband, the late August ‘Augie’ Martin after August had a stroke and decided he wanted to give back to the community. The house now also includes a large park-like lot used as a playground. Although Elsie continues to hold fundraisers every year, she said that other private donations help keep the doors to Guardian House open. One of Guardian House’s regular donors is Art Cutler, an Oakdale PG&E employee who has made a substantial personal donation to Guardian House every year.
“Without him, this wouldn’t be happening,” Elsie said.
This year, Cutler’s co-workers from PG&E accompanied him on a tour of the house on Dec. 14 to see what Children’s Crisis Center does for the Oakdale community. After the tour, PG&E decided to donate an additional $10,000 to Guardian House. The donations will allow Guardian House to continue helping local children.