Skip to content

Supporting Parents and Newcomers in Southern Minnesota

by Helene Pfaendtner

Ten children in traditional Hmong clothing dancing in front of a wall with flags of various countries.
Kanyar Maw Karenni Youth Dance group performing at the annual Taste of Nations hosted by the Welcome Center in Austin, Minnesota.

Care and community love are at the heart of Austin, Minnesota’s Parenting Resource Center (PRC), who continue to meet community needs through their recent merger with the Welcome Center.

From its mission statement, the Parenting Resource Center is designed to “provide resources, services, and prevention education to promote healthy, safe lifestyles for families within communities.” Since its inception in 1977, the organization has helped countless children and their families thrive. And like any organization hoping to withstand the test of time, the PRC has made several structural changes through the years to best meet the needs of the community.  

The newest of these changes was joining the Welcome Center, a community resource working to welcome and help recent immigrants in their transition to the new community, which was founded in 2000. The Welcome Center, with its modest staff of four, had found itself in a position of ambition exceeding capacity. Now, as they join the PRC under the same roof, the organizations can expand their reach and increase visibility in the community.   

As the two organizations grew separately over the past two decades, they served an increasingly overlapping population. According to PRC’s Interim Executive Director Gema Alvarado-Guerrero, there was a 20% client overlap between the two organizations. The merger that took place in January 2022 was an easy decision.  

“The Welcome Center is one of the first calls newcomers to the community make”

Sarah Hayes, Executive Director of the Children’s Dental Health Services

The PRC has framed the merger in terms of two organizations working to uplift one another. Many of the services offered by the Welcome Center, such as interpretation, translation, and connecting clients with necessary medical, legal, or financial community resources, go hand in hand with PRC’s existing services. One out of four Austin residents speak a language other than English at home, so ensuring that language needs are met is critical for Austin-based organizations.  

The addition of the Welcome Center marks the fourth sub-organization of the PRC. The others include the Seibel Center, which works as a supervised child visitation and exchange service; the Catherwood Home Child Care, which provides non-traditional hours of childcare to community members; and Partnering with Parents, a parent education and support program. The breadth of services the PRC provides is wide, and their services touch many of the lives of Austin’s residents.  

A mural composed of colorful vertical stripes, along with a hand and several butterflies, painted on the side of a building.
The mural at Austin’s Community Action Building, where both organizations are now housed.

Karen Wolf, executive director of Nexus-Gerard Family Healing and the PRC board president, shared some of the ways she sees the PRC impacting her community: “Their diaper program, their parenting education program, their interpretation services, their visitation… They go into jails to provide parenting education, which to me is so important because eventually these parents will be coming home.” The rich involvement throughout the family journey is what makes the PRC a stand-out resource. The programs they offer work to build strong parenthood foundations to foster self-sufficiency in all those they serve. 

There are countless success stories related to the different sub-organizations of the PRC, each unique. Stephen Juenger, the program coordinator of the Seibel Center, shared one such story related to Helping Homes, which provides short-term care for children of parents who lack the necessary childcare support as they address unexpected circumstances. “In this situation, there was a mother who did not have a place for her child while she went to go test for her realtor’s license. We were able to take the kid for a couple of hours, no problem. She ended up passing the test and she gets her license. She’s able to start working on her own and is able to support herself and all we had to do was watch a kid for a couple of hours.”  

Children paired up in a gym with boxing gloves and punching bags.
Kickboxing class held at the Community Action Building by APAC, Austin Positive Action Coalition which targets substance misuse prevention among youth in Austin.

This story highlights a pressing issue for many parents. When parents lack the mobility and financial flexibility for traditional childcare or other parenting resources, many experience barriers to opportunities that would otherwise be within reach. When organizations like the PRC are able to alleviate some of the strain that parenthood often entails, parents can access new opportunities, bringing their children up with them. 

“The Welcome Center is one of the first calls newcomers to the community make. Their merging with the Parenting Resource Center will allow for quicker and smoother access to services needed to support their family’s ability to thrive,” said Sarah Hayes, Executive Director of the Children’s Dental Health Services, an organization that works closely with the PRC and uses the Welcome Center’s services. The joint team of vibrant, invested individuals help to make Austin’s families safer, healthier, and able to thrive.  

This fall, the PRC and the Welcome Center will round out their merger by moving under one roof at the Community Action Building. Keep up with the organizations’ crucial community work on the Welcome Center website.

The Welcome Center was part of the Community Creativity Cohort 2, a group of 40 organizations that are making art central to their community-building efforts. The Cohort was funded by the Bush Foundation and operated by Arts Midwest from 2019-2022. Check out our History to learn more about this program. This story was created in partnership with NewPublica.