Help Kids Be Kids: Renovate Playroom at Family Crisis Center

For: Family Crisis Center of Prince George's County
Prince George's County
Organizer: Dr. Karen O'Brien and Her Students
Help Kids Be Kids: Renovate Playroom at Family Crisis Center (Family Crisis Center of Prince George's County)
of $8,000 goal.
Raised by 104 donors
95% Complete
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

Thank you so much for visiting our fundraising page. We are students from the University of Maryland enrolled in PSYC319, a service learning course in which we provide fun play and psycho-educational groups for children living in the Family Crisis Centerin Prince George's County, a shelter for abused women and their children. We are participating in the Do Good Challengeat the University of Maryland to raise funds to renovate the playroom for the children. Please consider donating to our cause. No amount is too little.
Spread the word! Help Kids Be Kids.

How Do the Students Assist the Children in Shelter? Read this:

How Does Intimate Partner Violence Hurt the Children?
Approximately 1 in 10 children will witness intimate partner violence in their homes, an estimated 2.3 million children in the United States each year. Children who have witnessed violence show increased rates of mental and physical health problems compared to children who have not witnessed violence. Witnessing parental violence is one of the strongest predictors of later victimization and perpetration of partner abuse.

What Are Our Goals?

Domestic violence shelters consistently house more children than adults, yet these children often are not provided with therapeutic or play-oriented services. Our goals are (1) to provide interactive play and psycho-educational groups on healthy expression of feelings, healthy life skills, and positive self-esteem to the children living in the shelter three times a week, and (2) to raise funds to create a real playroom for the children and their mothers (including painting and carpeting the room, creating centers for reading, art, science, and music, and purchasing educational and play materials).

In addition to online fundraising, the students will be hosting an art show featuring the work of the children in shelter, selling grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight on Route 1, and hosting bake sales. One of the student's dads promised to sell cupcakes at his place of employment!

How Can I Help?
Please donate using the secure paypal link on this webpage.

If you would prefer to send a check, please address the check to the Family Crisis Center and write UMD Playroom in the "for" line. Please send your check to the Family Crisis Center, 3601 Taylor Street, Brentwood, MD 20722. 

What Do Former Students Say About Their Experience in Shelter?

Neva Bowers: I am in my second year of Teach For America, teaching French at an underserved high school in Memphis, Tennessee.  When I'm not teaching, I volunteer with a mentorship program and the Memphis Farmers Market.

My experience at the Family Crisis Center taught me the immense importance of building relationships with the people you are serving.  The relationships that I formed with the children and their mothers motivated me to work hard while informing how I could best serve them.  As an outsider, coming to lend a hand in a community that was not my own, I needed to make those connections, build trust, and learn what the shelter residents needed.

While volunteering at the shelter, I decided that I wanted to pursue social justice work after graduating from Maryland.  After the time I spent with the women and children there, I could not imagine having a job that did not help those who have been disadvantaged in our society.  Specifically, it helped me to realize how important it is for me to work directly with the people that I am serving.  I decided to become a teacher because I wanted to work alongside students and families while combatting the social problems that have created such a flawed education system.   

Christina Dias: I am in my first year of the Physician Assistant program at Drexel University. I plan to practice in primary care in medically underserved communities as part of the National Health Service Corps.

One of the most salient things I took away this course is understanding the complex, interconnected factors that cause women stay in abusive relationships. Women who do not leave abusive relationships are often judged and their character and/or the severity of their situation are called into question. I’m grateful this course gave me the ability to refute this dominant narrative and be supportive rather than critical of battered women in my life, be it friends, family, coworkers, future patients, etc.

Once I am practicing as a physician assistant, I want to incorporate domestic violence screenings into my patient visits, as well as provide resources and accommodations to women experiencing intimate partner violence. Knowing I wanted to practice medicine, I was inspired by this course and shelter to incorporate helping women in violent situations into my career as much as possible.

Danielle Wollner: I am finishing up a dual degree in School Psychology with a focus on therapeutic interventions in the schools. I am currently completing a full-time internship in an elementary school and high school, and will be graduating this coming May.

Never judge a person or his/her situation until you hear their story.

I honestly would not be where I am today without having had the shelter experience. Personally, I really learned to listen to people and to remain open minded, as well as to appreciate even the simplest things in life. Professionally, my work at FCC helped me to feel confident in my therapeutic skills, especially my ability to be empathetic. I do a lot of group counseling in my current work, and still refer to some of the groups that I created for use at shelter. Having such a unique experience as an undergrad student definitely helped pave the path I have taken and helped bring me to where I am today.

Dr. Sheetal Patel: I am a psychologist - private practice, teaching, and clinical director at a non profit - ASTT (Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma). I became appreciative of the complexity of people's lives, how there were multiple levels of systems interacting to shape the clients' lives, their psychological well being, stressors, and engagement in counseling and social services. 

It was the most meaningful experience as an undergraduate. The relationships with other students, Dr. O'Brien, and the clients were incredibly meaningful for me. It intensified my desire to want to do social justice work as a counseling psychologist.

Sarah Berkey: After graduating from UMD I continued to volunteer in shelter for one year while I also began to work full time at Cru, a campus Christian ministry at the university. Currently, I am continuing to work part time for Cru while also completing my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology at Towson University. In the fall of 2015 I will attend a doctoral program in Counseling Psychology. 

I learned that one of the greatest ways that abusers are able to continue violence against their victims is by controlling and isolating them. Abusers will seek to isolate their victims from friendships, family, employment, and resources causing them to be further dependent on the abuser and trapped in an unsafe situation. Domestic violence shelters are one of the only things that that stand in the way of abusers and when the survivor has been isolated from all other supports. I learned that this is why we must support these shelters, because without them we are leaving people in extremely dangerous situations alone.

I credit much of my current life path to my time in Dr. Karen O’Brien’s service-learning class and my involvement with Family Crisis Center. I was inspired by Dr. O’Brien to see how much change we can bring about through teaching and involving others in the work. Hundreds of lives have been impacted by this program. We provided much needed support to the women, children, and staff at shelter but they, along with Dr. O’Brien’s mentorship, inspired us to make a positive difference in this world. This experience is one that has motivated me to pursue my doctorate degree so that I can continue to inspire others to change the world through teaching, service, and knowledge.

Janice E. Castro: I am a 3rd year doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. A lasting lesson I took away from my experience in the course/in shelter is that domestic violence is a systemic issue, not a familial/women/individual issue.

One specific way in which my experience has impacted my professional and/or personal life is that the I was able to understand first hand how research and clinical work are both critical in understanding domestic violence. The unique experience had driven me to pursue graduate school in counseling psychology with one of my research focuses on domestic violence, specifically in the Latina/o community.

Chandni Shah: I am a 5th year Doctoral Candidate in Counseling Psychology at Purdue University . I am working on my dissertation (topic stemming from my interest in understanding unhealthy relationships) and I will be completing my predoctoral internship at UT Austin next academic year.

We are not that different from each other. I took away the idea that domestic violence could happen to anyone. I apply this principle to mental health and client work as well. While it is easy to judge, it is hard to believe that it could have been me...That's scary. We have to work together as a community to end domestic violence and many other issues. Sometimes the most powerful experience is being heard. Many of the children and women appreciated the safe space to be heard and recognized by someone else.

My experience in the course and the internship has sparked a passion in me. I pursued full time work at a domestic violence agency after graduating. Also, I pushed my professional life to obtain a PhD in Counseling Psychology where my primary research interests are domestic violence, women's issues, and systemic oppressions. I hope to build the skills to impact and reduce domestic violence individually and systemically, especially within minority communities. I appreciate a holistic approach to interventions, as I saw the intergenerational impact of domestic violence. I appreciate prevention as much as intervention now. 

It would be a lie to say that I was not personally impacted. Lots of reflection and self exploration later, I can say my view of relationships and family has changed. At one point, I was overly cautious and constantly scanning the world to identify unhealthy relationships. Currently, I realize I am quick to assess for unhealthy relationships, but in a more informed way.

Nini Goldberg:I am a 1st year student pursuing her PsyD in Clinical Psychology at Long Island University. The longest lasting lesson I learned from my experience in shelter is the strength and resiliency of people. I met some of the strongest people I have ever met in my life, and was privileged to make their difficult lives that much more manageable. 

My experience has impacted my professional career in many ways. It was the most educational facet of my undergraduate career, and now as I pursue my doctorate, this has helped give me the real world experience I needed to be on par with my classmates. It also sparked in me a desire to work with traumatized children, which is what I am pursuing in my graduate study. This was literally the best experience I had in the first 22 years of my life for my own personal and professional development. 

Abby Kaye-Phillips: I'm the Engagement and Program Associate at Brown RISD Hillel, a nonprofit that is the center for Jewish life at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design and an integral part of social, cultural, educational, political, and religious life on both campuses.

I took away the desire to find the positivity in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. I watched children who were dealt the worse hands possible laugh, play, learn, grow and even on one occasion, sing "What a Wonderful World" while linking arms and swaying together. If they can have that positive outlook no matter what, I should always strive to do so as well.

Professionally, it's important that I help my students find community services projects that they are passionate about and explore ways in which they can make the world a better place through their actions. Jewish tradition has strong routes in doing good, but since shelter so intensely impacted the way that I see the world, I want to make sure that my students are pursuing topics that touch them on a deep level, not just what they think they should fight for.

Victoria Ortiz: I am about to graduate from UMD in May and hopefully will be pursuing a social work/law degree in graduate school this upcoming fall. The lasting lesson I took away from my shelter experience was that the developmental delays and behavioral problems are real for the children. We read in research and media that mere exposure to violence for children has an effect on their brain and social development, but it was hard for me to comprehend that until I went to shelter, and I met the children and saw the delays first hand. 

My time in the shelter combined with the 319 class helped me to narrow my career path. For a while I was unsure of what I wanted to do, but this experienced allowed me to see that I was interested in the field of Domestic Violence prevention and awareness.  Which lead me to choose to pursue a social work and law degree so I can eventually become a victim advocate for survivors. Without this experience I might still be trying to decide what career path I wanted to pursue. 

Meet the Current Students and Team Leaders:


Natasha Wright:At the University of Maryland, I major in Psychology and minor in African American Studies.  I describe myself as an illogical realist because nothing is simply black and white.  I took the first semester of PYSC 318D because it sounded interesting and informative.  I took the second semester of PYCS 319D because the strength and resilience of the survivors inspired me to better myself.  Working with the children in shelter is too precious to properly describe with words. Their smiling faces overwhelm and invigorate me at the same time.  No matter how tired I am, I always look forward to going to shelter.    

Christine Cook: I am a senior psychology major at UMD. I volunteer at Family Crisis Center because after learning about the psychology of domestic violence for a semester, I wanted to help any way that I can. Domestic violence is a huge problem in our society, and we can help by volunteering at local shelters by serving as role models for the children who are living in shelter and allowing the moms time to themselves. I have found the experience extremely rewarding, especially when you see how excited the children are to see you every week. I look forward to continuing my work with the kids and hope to make a difference through the money we raise! 

Jasmine Moore: I’m a senior Criminology and Psychology student at Maryland. Working at the Family Crisis Center has taught me that domestic violence is endemic in our society and I feel it is my duty to help change the way it affects my communities. This experience has encouraged me learn more about domestic violence to compliment my experience in shelter as well as provide me with work experience that will help me reach my career goals of becoming a social worker or counselor.

Jordan Stoner: I am a senior criminology and criminal justice student pursuing a certificate in women’s studies. I chose to take this class because it provides an opportunity to apply the theories and knowledge we acquire to a real world setting. Taking part in shelter work has led myself and other students to work with the community to make a real difference to children’s and women’s lives.

Lily Stevens:I am earning a degree in Psychology and a certificate in LGBT studies at the University of Maryland. I am a passionate feminist and volunteer for a Girl's Empowerment club at Langley Park elementary school. I work at FCC because I am determined to be a positive role model for children and to diligently work to stop violence against women. 

Michelle Dagne: I am a psychology major and LGBT studies minor at the University of Maryland. Domestic violence is a huge issue in our society, and one that I am very passionate about ending. I took this course to do my part in ending violence against women, and I hope to use what I learn in this course and my experience working in shelter in my career later in life.

Deven Powell: I’m a senior Psychology Major. When I registered for the first sequence of this course, I was mainly curious about domestic violence and the reasons for why victims stay. I have relatives and acquaintances that have been severely impacted by domestic violence from both sides of the spectrum, perpetrator and victim; and I thought it was important for me as a woman and scholar to educate myself more about the topic. After learning about topic more seriously and seeing the culture we live in glamorize, and at the same time, turn its cheek and ignore domestic violence, I wanted to make a difference in my community and take the second sequence of the course. This class has given me the opportunity to educate others, offer an open ear to the kids and be a positive role model for the kids that live in the FCC shelter. This experience has truly been one of a kind and I hope to continue this journey in the future.

Jennifer Wonsever: I am a junior Psychology major. The more I learned about the effects of domestic violence, the more I desired to do something. While this opportunity only makes a small impact - every little bit can make a difference in these children's lives.


Lizzie Sauber: I am a second year doctoral student in the counseling psychology program. I was fortunate enough to take the PSYC318/319 course sequence as an undergraduate in 2010 and have been volunteering in shelter ever since. One of the most powerful lessons I've learned through this course is that while intimate partner violence stems from the need for power and control, it is so often complicated by other societal factors, such as racism, sexism, and poverty. It makes the resilience of the women and children with whom we work all the more incredible. I hope to give back to this community by engaging in clinical work and research with those affected by domestic violence throughout my career.

Ashlyn Sassaman: I am a senior psychology major. I took Dr. O'Brien’s class last Spring and I have been going to the shelter for a year. Going into shelter has been an amazing experience. I have gotten to meet so many of the children that live there and getting to see their smiling faces every week always put me in better spirits. Now as a group leader, I love watching the new students coming in to the shelter and having their lives changed by the kids. Working at shelter has changed my life completely and has shown me not only how much I love working with children, but also how important it is to me to always be learning and doing what I can to stop domestic violence. 

Jessica Pickens: I am a junior psychology major. Working with the children at the Family Crisis Center has been one of the most significant experiences of my college career. It has provided insight as to what I would like to do with a career in social work and has afforded me the opportunity to get to know and impact the lives of the children that I work with at the Family Crisis Center. I would like to become a child advocate for children like the children that I work with at the Family Crisis Center. I'm also interesting in counseling women and children who are survivors of domestic violence. One of the most amazing aspects of volunteering at the Family Crisis Center is being able to watch the children who have endured so much, go through so much transformation. That has been one of the most rewarding things for me. I have watched so many children blossom and have formed so many relationships with the children that I have also been transformed as a result of the work that I do at the Family Crisis Center. 

Mandisa Henry: I am a former student currently working in non- profits and that enrolled in the PSYC318/319 course sequence during my undergraduate career at the University of Maryland, and continue to volunteer more than three years later. Through my experiences in shelter and with this course, I have gained a more comprehensive understanding of intimate partner violence and its pervasiveness in our culture. Being able to work with the children and families at the Family Crisis Center has been a transformative experience and one of my most powerful to date.  Working with these children and families I am constantly in awe of the resiliency and vibrancy in the face of adversity and some of the most difficult situations they will go through. Having a renovated playroom for the children would mean so much! Seeing the children being able to relax and just be kids in a safe space would bring everyone so much joy.    


Dr. Karen O’Brien:I am very fortunate to teach the 318-319 courses at the University of Maryland and to place talented and committed students in our community shelter. I developed these courses with Dr. Lisa Goodman and have taught the courses since 2000. I first became interested in intimate partner violence when I volunteered in a shelter for survivors of domestic violence in Chicago as an undergraduate at Loyola University Chicago. I later worked in domestic violence shelters for several years and now serve on the Board of Directors at the Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County. My research demonstrates the efficacy of these domestic violence courses on students’ understanding of intimate partner violence and their ability to respond effectively to incidents of domestic violence.

Want to Learn More About How the Family Crisis Center Helps Abused Women and Their Children?
Watch this:


Fundraiser Updates

Posted on April 21, 2015

Posted on April 21, 2015

Dear All:

Our PSYC319 Team “Help Kids Be Kids” was selected as a finalist in the Do Good Challenge at the University of Maryland. We were told that our team “proved to be one of the most exciting, innovative and creative groups of changemakers at the University of Maryland.”

We now have the opportunity to win up to $7,500 for the children at the Family Crisis Center and we need your help.

The finals event will be held on Tuesday, April 28thfrom 7:00 until 9:00pm at the Riggs Alumni Center at the University of Maryland. Our Team will present a five-minute pitch of our efforts during the Do Good Challenge, followed by judge comments and questions. After presentations by the six finalists, the judges will decide on the rankings for both the ventures and projects awards, while the audience votes for the People’s Choice Award.

How Can You Help?

1- Please join us at the Do Good Challenge Finals Event on Tuesday, April 28that 7:00pm and vote for us to receive the People’s Choice Award.

2- Encourage others to join us at the Do Good Challenge Finals Event on Tuesday, April 28that 7:00pm and vote for us to receive the People’s Choice Award.  

3-If you have not yet donated to help renovate the playroom for the children at the shelter, please consider making a donation before April 27th. These donations will be considered as the judges determine if our team should win additional money for the children in shelter. Here’s the link:

What Has Our Team Accomplished?

We have raised $8815.74 to renovate the playroom at the Family Crisis Center. (online fundraising $7292, bake sale $279.05, cupcake sales $122, in-person donations $972.20 – including $500 from the American Psychological Association, grilled cheese sales $83, and a children’s art/bake sale $67.49)

Our students have donated over 400 hours to provide playtime and psycho-educational groups to the children living in the Family Crisis Center.

Thanks for your support! We hope to see you on April 28th!

Karen and the PSYC319 Students – The Help Kids Be Kids Team

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