Girls happily reading their books - at Orchard Place Des Moines

Orchard Place's PMIC Volunteer Jennifer McCrickerd Receives Statewide Friend of Children Award




Des Moines, Iowa— Orchard Place’s volunteer, Jennifer McCrickerd recently received the Friend of Children Award in recognition of her service to Iowa children and families. The honor was awarded by the Coalition for Family & Children’s Services in Iowa at Orchard Place on May 24, 2017. The Coalition presents the Friend of Children Award each year to recognize and acknowledge the importance of voluntary contributions to Iowa’s Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice and Children’s Mental Health System. 

McCrickerd a professor of philosophy at Drake University began volunteering at Orchard Place in 2015.  Now has a weekly “Chess Club” that occurs each Wednesday at Orchard Place that has a waiting list of young people ages 10-17 years old.  McCrickerd was able to calm a resident down who was struggling emotionally and before too long he was playing chess weekly with McCrickerd.  When he was discharged, he didn’t want to lose his relationship with McCrickerd, so she created the “Chess Club”.     

She is very patient with the kids when teaching chess and uses real-life examples while teaching them to play.  She is a positive role model as well as predictable and consistent.  By teaching the children to play chess she is also teaching them to slow down and think and make the best choice.  This skill can be transformed by the youth to school, home, and community life situations.  

“The youth have improved focus and concentration when playing chess as well as developing stronger social skills,” says Theresa McCabe, Milieu Treatment Coordinator at the Orchard Place Campus. “We are grateful for Jennifer and her willingness to share her time with us each week.” 

The Coalition for Family and Children’s Services was established in 1979 as an alliance of member agencies that work to strengthen services for Iowa’s children and families. For more information, visit