Nancy Buenrostro, 31, Nataile Olguin, 5, Alicia Buenrostro, 2, and Jasmine Buenrostro, 3, receive a Thanksgiving turkey from the Family Nurturing Center at their west Medford home Wednesday. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch

Gift of Thanksgiving meal boosts family's hope for a better life

Smiles burst out on the faces of five west Medford children and their mom on Wednesday when the Family Nurturing Center pulled up with a turkey and fixings for dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and all the rest for Thanksgiving Day dinner.

The congregation at St. Mark's Episcopal Church donated 80 turkeys and accompanying food boxes to the center, which provides a relief nursery for families in crisis, therapeutic early childhood education and parent education and support.

For families such as Nancy Buenrostro's without transportation, staff from the Family Nurturing Center delivered the boxes to their doorstep.

"I feel great and grateful for this help for my family," said Buenrostro, 31, who is legally blind and on disability. "Holidays are a bad time for us, but with this turkey, I know how to bake turkey and my mom's coming over to do the stuffing. She's the stuffing person."

"We're excited," said her daughter Josefina, 14.

Buenrostro said she moved her family to the valley four years ago from Hayward, Calif., "so they could have a better future."

Doug Losdahl, center care coordinator and teacher who helped deliver the turkeys, said: "The families are all very thankful. To say they're on a tight budget is an understatement. They're surviving and have no extra money — and any bump is very rough."

St. Mark's has long been a partner in helping families at the relief nursery, which is on church property on Oakdale Avenue.

Wednesday's boxes were among 300 the church put together for west Medford families in need.

"We're thankful for St. Mark's continued generosity and commitment to the success of our program and clients," said Mary-Curtis Gramley, the center's executive director.

"The notion of families enjoying the meal at home is especially significant. It helps fulfill the center's goal of building stable families that can develop and enjoy positive family customs as they rebuild their lives and relationships."

Losdahl said the center is struggling to garner grants and private donations to keep going.

"It's the best thing going in Jackson County, the most impactful for the family unit and for kids," he said. "We work with lots of community partners. The best way to help the child is to help the family."

Besides providing respite child care, the center teaches parenting skills, offers counseling and runs a preschool, helping kids get ready for Head Start and kindergarten, says Losdahl.

During the past fiscal year, the Family Nurturing Center served 432 children from 308 families. Nearly 100 additional children and their families have been screened and are on a waiting list, but they cannot be served because of a lack of staff and necessary funding.

"Our dream is a steady source of funding," said Losdahl. "We have a huge waiting list."

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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