PITTSBURG -- As a child, Michelle Duran felt neglected by her parents. When she got married, she vowed to give her children as much attention as they needed.

Then she and her husband, Charly, had four children in seven years. Suddenly, Duran felt she had more kids, requiring more attention, than she could handle.

"I was a little bit depressed," she said.

A nurse who was helping Duran care for her newborn son Harley referred her to the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa County, one of 32 nonprofits participating in the Share the Spirit holiday fundraising program sponsored by the Bay Area News Group.

"I said, 'Maybe I need help, because I need to find out how to treat my children better,'" said Duran, 26, a stay-at-home mom who suffers from epilepsy. "I felt like I was yelling at them too much. I had less patience. So I needed a reminder of how to treat my children."

As part of its nurturing parenting connection program, CAPC sent home visitor Rosario Contreras to meet with Duran.

"The first and second visits were so sad," Contreras said. "She was crying. We talked a lot about her experiences with the children. They were crying. She was holding the baby and then another child would want attention. So there was a lot of stress going on."

Contreras guided Duran through a 15-week in-home curriculum, taught from a book provided by CAPC, which teaches parents about recognizing and understanding feelings; nurturing and positive parenting techniques; and child development. At the end of the course, Duran asked for, and received, another 15 weeks.

"All those things changed," Contreras said. "Now she's feeling comfortable, and the kids are happy."

Established as a nonprofit in 1984, CAPC has a staff of 13 full-time and 19 part-time employees. It offers guidance in child development, health and safety, breast-feeding and poison control. It distributes baby bags for new mothers and a kit for new parents. During a recent home visit, Contreras presented Duran with a $100 gift card.

Contreras' help went beyond patient parenting tips.

"We help the family to connect with services in the community if they need help," she said. "Emergency food, diapers, if they need to apply to Medi-Cal. I set up a lot of appointments for the children because (Duran) was feeling intimidated about calling."

Michelle Duran, 26, poses with Sabrina Duran, 2, Giovanni Duran, 4, and Harley Duran, 1,  three of her four children at home Dec.. 17, 2013. Duran, a
Michelle Duran, 26, poses with Sabrina Duran, 2, Giovanni Duran, 4, and Harley Duran, 1, three of her four children at home Dec.. 17, 2013. Duran, a low-income Pittsburg resident, experiences postpartum depression, stress and feelings of being overwhelmed. A public nurse directed her to the Child Abuse Prevention Council of Contra Costa, a nonprofit Share the Spirit program. The program helped Duran, educating her with coping techniques, positive discipline and parenting practices. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Staff)

One technique Duran found especially helpful was Contreras' suggestion that she spend regular one-on-one time with each child -- Harley, 1; Sabrina, 2; Giovanni, 4, and Mikey, 7.

"At first I was thinking, am I going to like this program?" Duran said. "Is this really for me? It was. It was perfect. (Contreras) got along with me right away. I can call whenever I want. She's like a friend. She motivated me."

Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him at Twitter.com/garyscribe.

share the spirit
The Share the Spirit campaign, sponsored by the Bay Area News Group, benefits nonprofit agencies in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. To help, clip the coupon accompanying this story or go to https://volunteer.truist.com/vccc/donate. Readers with questions, and corporations interested in making large contributions may contact the Volunteer Center of the East Bay, which administers the fund, at 925-472-5760.