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Pinwheel Place
May 14, 2018

Pinwheel Place to Provide a Safe Haven

By Lisa Smoltino

Pinwheel Place

Pinwheel Place, a new 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Monmouth County, is driven by the mission to provide a refuge to children in crisis. The charity’s logo, the pinwheel, symbolizes the innocence of childhood, and represents what Director Lynn Hawkins is trying to build – a place where every child feels safe, loved, and valued.

Lynn Hawkins is motivated by a passion that was ignited long ago. Growing up in a well-rounded family and community, Hawkins describes her childhood as pretty close to ideal. With two parents, and a stable home, Hawkins always considered herself blessed. She decided early on in life that it was her mission to give back to those less fortunate than her. As a young adult, she took a position in Houston, Texas at Casa de Esperanza, an agency that provided residential support to at-risk children and their families.

“It really changed my life. It opened up my eyes to so much that happens in the world,” Hawkins stated. At Casa de Esperanza, Hawkins worked with a population of children that suffered from terrible neglect and abuse. “It was really a glimpse into the worst side of society,” Hawkins stated, “but with time, I also got to see some of the best sides of society.” Hawkins saw how much impact Casa de Esperanza had on the lives of the children who came into the program. She was inspired how love, stability and security could have such an impactful change on at-risk children and their families.
Hawkins returned to New Jersey with a new vigor and passion to create something similar closer to home. She began working at a group home where she met a wonderful young girl who would soon become her daughter. Quadhera Simmons, a young girl living in the group home where Hawkins worked, stole her heart. Hawkins eventually became her legal guardian, and her dream of opening a place similar to Casa de Esperanza was put on hold. Years later, Quadhera would become the driving force behind opening Pinwheel Place. Simons, determined to make a difference in the lives of at-risk children, pursued a degree in Social Work. She convinced her mom that they had to go after their dream of opening a place similar to the one that changed her mother’s life so many years ago, and Pinwheel Place was born.

Pinwheel Place will be a long term residential care facility for at-risk children and their families. It is unique in the fact that it will provide services to children from birth to six years old, and will seek to intercept behavior that has the potential to turn into abuse. Hawkins feels that servicing this age group is essential in not only breaking the cycle of abuse, but helping to determine the root cause and enacting change. Recent studies have shown this age group to be one of the crucial stages in a child’s life for setting a solid foundation. Neglect and abuse during this stage of life can lead to long term consequences, including toxic stress and other damaging mental and physical effects.

In addition to providing residential care for at-risk children, Pinwheel Place will also offer a range of medical, emotional and psychological services according to the child’s needs. They are seeking to serve the population of children suffering from homelessness, food insecurity, emotional trauma and/or drug addicted parents. The home will provide a safe, long term shelter for the children and assist parents with services aimed to reduce behaviors that could potentially cause future abuse and neglect. In Hawkins’ eyes, the long term vision would be for Pinwheel Place to be seen as a space for healing for at-risk families.

Pinwheel Place will be staffed entirely by volunteers and interns. The staff will consist of social work, psychology and counseling interns and recent college graduates willing to commit to working for a year for a small stipend and room and board at Pinwheel Place. The staff will be residents in the Pinwheel Place home, providing constant support to children. They will form a strong support group, serving as parents and role models. In addition, Hawkins would like to involve the community as much as possible. She envisions community days, such as community barbeques, where members of the community can come and interact with the children. The idea is to demonstrate to the children that they have a loving and supportive community.

Pinwheel Place is heavily reliant on volunteers and donations to help open its doors and keep them open to children in need. For more information, visit pinwheelplace.org or contact Lynn Hawkins at lhawkins@pinwheelplace.org.