WILMINGTON — It’s personal for the women and man behind Angels Awaiting Maternity Home, which will open in Wilmington in the months to come.
Joann Leach, Angels Awaiting’s president, said her tenure at the Life Pregnancy Center in Washington Court House gave her ample face-to-face time with pregnant, homeless women.
“You just want to grab them and hug them and tell them, ‘OK, there is another way,’” she said. “I want to give them that choice of having a family life and being able to know there is help out there, there are people that care about them, they can do better and they can make a better life for themselves and their children.”
Sandra McKinney said she and the other members are there for the women and for the babies.
“We don’t want them to be aborted,” she said. “We’re there to help anybody that needs our help as far as we can.”
Steven Leach, who said he’s from a family of 16, said his family didn’t have much, and he wants to share with people that they can find success in life.
Cindy Secrest was a single mother of two boys, a feat she says she couldn’t have accomplished without help from her family.
“Having that support system and knowing how afraid I was, how much a challenge, how many times you want to just shut down and walk the other way – even with that support system – I can’t even begin to fathom what it would be like without that support system,” Secrest said. “Us humans are capable of amazing things, if you just have somebody who believes in you.
“I just want to share that and to help somebody else and to let them know that there’s an answer out there,” Secrest continued.
Marma Harper and Dr. Frank Klamet, now deceased, helped found the organization as well.
“They played a very big role in getting Angels Awaiting Maternity Home off the ground and running,” Secrest said. “Their idealism, contributions of time and heart were just phenomenal.”
By April or May the home, at 782 Xenia Avenue in Wilmington, will offer three or four homeless, expectant mothers a place to stay. While there, each girl will have a female Angels Awaiting mentor, who will try to connect with and help her prepare for when their baby is born, and a resident house mother will maintain the home.
“We hope to house single, pregnant, homeless women,” Joann Leach said. “They can stay with us till the baby’s born and up to three months afterward, if they need to, to get on their feet.”
Joann Leach, who worked at the Life Pregnancy Center in Washington Court House, said she talked often with Klamet, an obstetrician-gynecologist and priest.
Klamet, now deceased, told Joann Leach that the girls needed a safe place to go away from their usual environment, which could include living out of the car, with drug addicts or on the floor.
Joann Leach said women can often find shelter if they’re being abused or if they have a child, but, she said, “We want to take care of are the ones in between that don’t fit either of those descriptions but yet they are homeless or they are living like a homeless person.”
Mentors will ensure residents learn parenting skills and set goals while also being someone the residents can call in the future for guidance.
“We want this to be run like a family,” Joann Leach said. “This will be a family home, and these girls will participate like a family. They’ll be doing chores, they’ll be taking care of their own laundry and that type of stuff.”
Joann Leach said many of the women they’ll help won’t have a family life to relate to, and Secrest said they often won’t have a support network.
“A lot of these girls don’t have that, so they just keep falling into pit hole after pit hole after pit hole with no one there to help them build a ladder to get out,” Secrest said, adding that the goal is to give “them a leg up to start a good, productive life, to stay out the of system, to stop the cycle and be able to support their children.”
“We want them to build a bridge,” Joann Leach said. “These girls need a friend.”
Secrest said the mentors will undergo a background check and in-house training. They should anticipate giving six hours a week to a resident.
She said male mentors may also be needed because the group hopes to offer parenting classes and mentorship to the fathers, if they can safely be integrated into the child’s life.
“I think a lot of them would be more than willing to be a part of that child’s life,” she said, adding that men often panic whereas women must overcome their fear.
In addition to being homeless, Secrest said the women accepted will be pregnant for the first time and single – those with other children or another adult can still call for directions to other resources but cannot reside in the home. The women don’t need to be local.
If a minor applies for entry, she’ll need to either be emancipated or her parents will have to sign over guardianship so financial and health decisions can be made.
Women can be admitted as soon as pregnancy is confirmed, and the group hopes to open more facilities in other areas later.
“We are servicing all of southern Ohio, and we’re not going to turn down any girl,” Secrest said. “You can come here. We can help you.”
For more information call Angels Awaiting Maternity Home at 740-335-4640 or email [email protected]
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.