Foundation buys a house for Family Nurturing Center

The space will provide a positive domestic environment for children from struggling families

Catherine's Cottage provides the Family Nurturing Center with a new homelike setting where children can learn about love. So it is appropriate that the dedication ceremony occurred on Valentine's Day, says the center's director, Mary-Curtis Gramley.

A gift from the Sangham Foundation, the small rehabbed home is nestled next to the center's larger building on North Oakdale Avenue in Medford. Its purpose is to provide a space to model a positive home life for young children and their struggling families, with help from staff at the respite care nursery, she said.

"Its homelike setting helps provide safety, security, warmth, and promotes healing within the children from pretty abusive life experiences," Gramley said.

The center provides child abuse and neglect prevention and intervention programs. It serves high-risk families with children from birth to age 5. Its mission is to promote healthy development of children, strengthen parents and preserve families by providing comprehensive services that help children stabilize and heal from the trauma of abuse, Gramley said.

The center's "wobblers," children who are just learning to walk, will now spend their days at Catherine's Cottage, rather than at the larger, more "industrial-style" building, where classrooms and playgrounds house the older children and infants, she said.

Services at Catherine's Cottage will include therapeutic early childhood education, respite child care, parent education and support, crisis response and referrals for basic needs and other community services, Gramley said.

"It will encourage families to come in and spend time in a space that supports children," she said.

The building that was once a home, then business offices, and is now Catherine's Cottage was purchased by Sangham and leased back to the center about 18 months ago. The original plan was for the center to raise the money to eventually purchase the building. But challenging financial times have affected funding. And the center got a big surprise when the foundation opted to give the cottage to the Family Nurturing Center, Gramley said.

"We have had their generous support," she said, adding that Sangham is a Sanskrit word, which can be translated as "community," "coming together" and "confluence."

Based in Santa Barbara, Calif., the Sangham Foundation has supplied the center with about $273,000 in grants since 2008. Ranging from $6,000 to $59,000, the grants have helped the therapeutic nursery set up programs, provided emergency relief funds and now has given the center a new place for the wobblers, where staff can hold classes to "help parents become better able to cope with the challenging and stressful realities that they face in their daily lives," Gramley said.

One of the earlier Sangham grants helped extend the center's preschool program from two days a week to four, Gramley said.

"This was really a critical need for our 3- to 5-year-old children whose behavior is problematic and who needed more therapeutic classroom experiences," Gramley said.

Sangham's emergency relief funds also have helped struggling families pay power bills, perform repairs and "helped families avoid layers of debt and further crises," she said.

The foundation "gives preference to small and medium-size grassroots organizations that demonstrate leadership, organizational capability and a clear plan for positive change," according to its website.

The center's new acquisition is one of the pieces in a larger dream Gramley and other community partners have to build a "Promise Neighborhood" — a network of interlocking community programs in a low-income area.

"It's a tiny step for us all," Gramley said. "But it provides hope."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or email

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