There is no place like home, and for the board behind the Jeremiah House, that place has a $600,000 price tag if the organization wants to continue its mission as before.
"The women that are there know the house. We feel it is the perfect setting for this ministry," said Lovettsville resident Sue Corbett, president of the board of directors for Jeremiah House, Inc., adding that the house is close to Leesburg and the Loudoun Hospital Center.
The women staying at the Jeremiah House, a Christian maternity home in Paeonian Springs, are involved in crisis pregnancies and have no other recourse. They may have no means of support or were abandoned by the birth fathers or rejected by their families. They often arrive following referrals from other shelters, crisis pregnancy centers and the Department of Social Services.
"They have come to the end of the road and just need someone to give them hope," said Kay Spruill, program director and a Sterling resident. "We talk to them about their goals, and we just go down that road. Before they came in, they probably weren't that focused. We begin that process as soon as they come through the door."
THE JEREMIAH HOUSE can accept women over 18 years of age and minors on a case-by-case basis with the house parents as their legal guardians. Jeremiah House is licensed by the county to house four women and their children in the 10-bedroom home. The women are allowed to stay for three to six months after their child's birth, a stay that can be extended on a monthly basis.
The ministry for Jeremiah House provides the women with temporary housing and guidance, offering instruction in parenting, homemaking and financial responsibility, along with adoption counseling for those who choose adoption.
"We try to look at the whole person and at whatever their needs may be. That way they become an asset to the community and feel generally good about themselves," Spruill said.
Community volunteers provide counseling and medical services for the women if they do not have their own funds to pay for the services. They provide childbirth and nutrition education, computer instruction, employment counseling and financial planning.
"If we battle a pro-choice agenda, we need to give these women another choice, not just why but how you can keep the baby," Corbett said. "These women deserve a chance so their babies have a chance."
THE JEREMIAH House is in a Victorian home with a wide front porch that is furnished with a few rocking chairs. The house, which dates to the late 1800s, sits on 1.2 acres in the suburbs of Paeonian Springs.
The home has a Christian, supportive and loving environment that the house parents provide, Corbett said. "This couple is phenomenally wonderful at creating an atmosphere of family and inclusion," she said. "The couple has a heart for this ministry, for helping these women, taking and wrapping their arms around them and loving them until they accept it."
The women staying at the house are expected to take part in cleaning and in cooking one night a week, along with discussing their meal plans with the house parents, a married couple with three children who have lived at the house since summer 2002. The couple is responsible for shopping for the food items, taking the women to their appointments and to the hospital, overseeing the activities of the house and following-up on discipline, making sure the women sign in and out and follow the house rules.
"Their role is to provide a stable loving environment," Corbett said in reference to the couple, who did not want to be identified. "The house wouldn't be anything without a successful set of house parents."
The women are required to work full-time or to volunteer if they cannot work for a medical reason and to earn at least a General Equivalency Degree (GED). Jeremiah House offers the women assistance in looking for work and connects them with needed resources and county housing programs. Once they are working, the women are encouraged to save part of their earnings, which they do not have to use toward room and board. Since the house is a Christian ministry, the women also are obligated to attend church and a weekly Bible study.
"It's a condition they come in with an open mind, respectful to this," Corbett said. "We have more stories of women who come in with a chip on their shoulder. ... Many of them are making significant lifestyle changes from being on the street to [finding] an apartment, from being a troubled teen to a college student."
WOODY AND JOAN FITZHUGH founded the Jeremiah House in 1994, opening the doors a year later after the house was repaired with community volunteer help. The Fitzhughs established the mission and has since let the ministry take over. The first resident arrived in 1996 and a total of 45 women in various stages of pregnancy have stayed at the house to receive ministry care.
For the past seven years, the ministry has paid Fitzhugh a modest rent to continue using the house. Recently, Fitzhugh has decided that from a financial standpoint, he has to sell the house, which the board agreed to purchase.
Fitzhugh "desperately wants the ministry to continue," Corbett said.
In response, the board initiated a capital campaign to raise the needed funds, hoping to have the majority of funds by mid-fall. So far, the board has contacted previous donors and plans to contact churches and other organizations, along with possibly hosting a family-oriented, fund-raising event in the summer.
"I believe the ministry helps. It makes a difference in these women's lives. It makes a difference in my life," Spruill said. "It's so awesome. I learn from them changes to make in my life to meet them where they are. ... That helps me to grow."
Jeremiah House, Inc. is a United Way agency.