Refuge for children in crisis opens to fanfare

Austin's House, otherwise known as the Carson Valley Children's Center, was open to the public for the first and probably the last time on Thursday.

The home is a place for children to go when they are in abusive or neglectful family situations. Each child will stay up to 45 days, while a Court Appointed Special Advocate searches for reliable family members or a foster home to care for the child. If no home is found suitable, the child will stay at Austin's House as long as necessary. The center is for Douglas County children but those from other areas will be accepted if there is space permitting.

Numerous politicians and more than 70 people were present at the opening, including District Judge Michael Gibbons, Pastor Pete Nelson and Nevada first lady Dawn Gibbons. All of the speakers praised Douglas County for the many donations and support of the community.

"We name the problem, and we solve it," Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said. "Many communities just name the problem and do nothing."

"Children are our future," said Linda Cuddy, president of Douglas County Court Appointed Special Advocates. "They are our greatest commodity."

A 1991 Mercedes two-door coupe was raffled off to raise more money for the center, and tours of the building were provided for the public.

The 5,300-square-foot children's center can accommodate up to 10 children, ranging from infants until 17 years old. Each bedroom has been "adopted" by a company, organization or community member, and is furnished with a bed, desk, a homemade quilt and a bucket of toiletries.

"We want to provide safety and nurture for these children," Cuddy said. "The way a home should be."

The facility will provide computers for older children to do their homework, as well as a television and dozens of books and toys. A visiting room is set up for parents or other family members to come visit the children. Kids in school will attend school by bus as there is a bus stop near the facility, or they will be driven by a staff member.

"We want the community to know that the children of Douglas County will remain in Douglas County," said Vicky Sauer-Lamb, vice president of CASA. "That's important."

Austin's House and Douglas County CASA's will have frequent fundraisers to encourage the community to remain actively aware of the children's center. Upcoming events include a Deal or No Deal game night, as well as Cowboy Up for Kids in October, along with a dinner dance in the spring.

"Now it's ongoing," Sauer-Lamb said. "The kids will be coming in and out. Medical needs and therapy will be happening on a day to day basis. We need the support to continue, and for the community to not forget about us now that it's open."

Executive director Pam Wise said that finalizing the staff is the final step before the facility officially opens its doors for children on Aug. 14. The staff will be on board 24 hours a day and will go through 60 hours of training.

"Everything else is pretty much done," Wise said. "Now we just need to get started."

Austin's House is always looking for donations, so if interested in donating either money or supplies, contact Linda Cuddy or another CASA member at 782-6247. For more information, go to

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Thursday, although yesterday was


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