Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota
Amber Collins tries to live her life according to a favorite quote from St. Mother Teresa, “Do small things with great love.” A teacher, Amber has taught at Minnesota Catholic schools and participated in religious education in faith communities as a youth minister, coordinator for middle school religious education, and leader of both a Bible study and a marriage enrichment series.
Amber had developed a missionary heart in high school and college while doing mission work with her church but didn’t know how she could continue doing so after she and her husband started their family.
As an exhausted mother of two children under two years old, Amber was struggling to focus on her relationship with Jesus and even to find time for daily prayer. But she learned to incorporate prayer into her day, including prayers of petition. While she was nursing her second child and singing songs of praise, God gave her the vision to start a crisis nursery in New Ulm, Minnesota, she says.
A volunteer with the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, she saw the need for a similar program to serve those who lived in New Ulm and surrounding communities. It was a desire to serve the poor, the orphans, and the afflicted that inspired her to create the crisis nursery for those who need emergency child care but cannot afford it.
Amber understood how her life experiences – previous jobs and volunteerism - would prepare her to make the vision a reality. The chair of a board of 12 volunteers (none of them experienced in starting a non-profit), she researched different models and ultimately found a home for the nursery. Through the generosity of donors, they furnished the home and secured necessary items for the children at no cost.
Four years later, the doors of Ivy House are open to any family from any walk of life that needs help with children up to 12 years old. Children can stay at Ivy House for up to 72 hours at a time, for a total of 30 days per year. Services, including screening for abuse and neglect, are free and confidential.
Families turn to the nursery for a variety of reasons, including parental stress, risk of abuse or neglect, homelessness, and more. One couple who had no family nearby turned to Ivy House when the mother went into labor with her third child. Ivy House took care of their four-year-old son with autism and their 14-month-old baby. When the mother experienced complications after birth, her three children returned to Ivy House during her hospitalization.
“We supported a family in the midst of crisis and loved them the way Christ would have,” Amber said.
Since its inception in 2017, Ivy House has served more than 200 children, provided more than 900 healthy meals, and helped homeless families to find safe housing. Amber believes it is God’s will for them to duplicate the model across Minnesota and the United States.