His Caring Place Celebrates 30 Years of Saving Lives

 

house-webNow celebrating 30 years, His Caring Place has offered love, encouragement and guidance to about a thousand young women struggling with crisis pregnancies since its inception. Whether deciding to parent their newborns or release them for adoption, His Caring Place provides young, single women with the opportunity to complete their pregnancies, accomplish personal goals and discover God’s plan for their lives.

It all started in 1977 when Julie West Sorrelle became pregnant at age eighteen while she was in college. Frightened and feeling hopeless, she scheduled an abortion. Just days before her appointment, she decided, instead, to complete her pregnancy. With her parents’ support, Julie moved into a Christian maternity home in Pennsylvania where she received guidance and encouragement throughout her pregnancy. After giving birth to a healthy baby boy and placing him for adoption with a loving Christian couple, Julie returned home to South Florida to complete the healing process.

God used Julie’s experience to plant a desire in her family’s heart to create a similar ministry in South Florida, and after much prayer and careful planning; His Caring Place opened its doors in 1984. Founder Anne West recalls, “It took years to get the home open, but God gave me Psalm 1 as an encouragement to do it right, to not compromise, and it has flourished. If you follow God’s way that leaf will never wither,” she said.

While her daughter Julie passed away of breast cancer at age 31, Anne said, “God definitely used her life. She was on the board of the maternity home for years because she had an inside understanding, and I feel like all of these babies are jewels in her crown.”

 

God’s faithfulness

Today, we marvel at how God continues to use the life of a desperate, fearful teenager to prove His faithfulness to many others just like her.

Melodie Stoligrosz, who was a house parent with her husband, Michael, from 1990-93 said she was “blessed to see the hand of God at His Caring Place every single day as he miraculously answered prayers. It was a real neat time of learning.” And for many it was the first time they experienced unconditional love. Recalling an incident when one of the girls broke a house rule while Melodie was away, she said, “When I got back, she had her bags packed and asked, ‘Aren’t you going to hit me?’ It brought me to tears and I said, ‘No, what you did was wrong, and there will be a consequence, but I’m not going to hit you. There is grace.”

Victoria Wells was 15-years old and pregnant when her mother, who was not working and struggled with addiction, suggested she get an abortion. “I think I made the phone call to His Caring Place,” said Victoria. “I was angry, quiet, mad at the world, had trust issues and didn’t like people because I was hurt,” said Victoria. “But I was always close to Melodie. At first I found her annoying because she was so happy and close to Michael.” Yet Victoria said, “They showed me what godly parents are supposed to be, poured into us and tried to guide us.” Victoria is pictured below with her daughter today.

Victoria and daughter today

 

The Miracle Home

In 2005, His Caring Place was brought under the ministry of 4KIDS of South Florida, a nonprofit on a mission to find a home for every child in foster care due to abuse, abandonment or neglect. Formerly comprised of multi-site homes in Broward County, His Caring Place currently consists of one maternity home for women ages 16 – 23 and one Aftercare Home. Newborn babies can stay in the maternity home with their mothers for up to four months before they transition into their Aftercare Home for up to one year while they continue to develop life skills for independence. There the women learn to parent, find work, finish school, arrange day care and obtain reliable transportation. “It serves as a huge bridge to independence,” said Jessica Baxter, His Caring Place coordinator.  In the future, His Caring Place hopes to open a third maternity home for younger teen girls in foster care where there is a growing need.

Affectionately called the Miracle Home, the maternity home wasn’t always as beautiful as it is today. Destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in October 2005, His Caring Place had to downsize for a while, but when they presented the need for a new home to the community on Mother’s Day 2006, the response was overwhelming. Individual contractors, big construction companies, and manufacturers began donating their time, materials and heart to rebuild the home. After a two-year battle for a building permit, volunteers and contractors came out in full force and the house was built in 2010-2011.

Because of this miraculous response, His Caring Place is well-equipped as a ministry tool for the young women and their babies who reside there, and every aspect of the design was purposeful, from the large kitchen where residents take turns cooking a shared meal to the large living area designed for regular fellowship and Bible study or the quaint parlor area where mothers can having some quiet time with their newborns.

Like a well-run household, the family schedule and chores are posted on the wall and photos line the hallways. During their stay, residents complete five intentional classes: pregnancy, infant basic care, parenting, life skills and healthy choices. They participate in Bible studies, attend church, hold family meetings, and on Fridays they relax, sometimes with movies, ice cream or a special outing. The girls are expected to be in school or working while also working toward personal goals, such as restoring relationships, saving money or learning to drive. Each girl completes an individualized service plan with a case manager who helps them find employment by preparing them to build a resume and interview for jobs. They also develop an Aftercare Plan, which may include future housing options, reconnecting with family and arranging child care.

 

Lives changes

But the real redemption story is in the lives that are saved two at a time.

HCP-small-Lorraine and her daughter.At 22 years-old, Lorraine Medrano was almost six months pregnant and was unable to stay in her Grandmother’s low-income housing. She wasn’t with the father, didn’t have a job or car and wasn’t stable. The caseworkers and volunteers at His Caring Place helped Lorraine attend Atlantic Technical Center where she was trained as an administrative assistant specialist. “The rules were there to help us be more disciplined and grow closer to God… And the first bath I gave my baby was with my house mom. I was scared because she was so small and fragile,” she remembers. Today Lorraine is married, her daughter Aiyanna is 4-years-old and she has a 9-month-old son. “His Caring Place really made a difference in my life. The girls come in there with nothing and leave with a sense of knowing God has bigger plans for us. It’s not just your situation,” said Lorraine.

HCP-small-61-Ashton and her son.Ashton Rossi was a resident of His Caring Place in 2011 beginning in the maternity phase and moving on to their independent living program with another mom. Having left a violent relationship in North Carolina, Ashton moved to Florida to meet her real dad. She soon found out she was pregnant. His Caring Place was there for her when she didn’t have anyone. “They helped me go back to school as a medical assistant, helped me get medical insurance. My house parent became like a second mom to me,” she said, “and the other girls were like my sisters.” Today, she and her 5-year-old son, Gabriel, have returned to North Carolina where she works full time and is in nursing school. “I don’t know where we would have been without His Caring Place, said Ashton. They were a critical part of my life.” Her stay there was a time to refocus and work through things in her life. “It was a constant feeding of the Word, being refreshed on different aspects of the Bible and how it relates to our life.”

Join His Caring Place for a 30th Anniversary Dessert Night on April 14. To register, visit www.4kidsofsfl.org/dessertnight. For more on the ministry, visit www.4kidsofsfl.org/his-caring-place-home.

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