Foundation House Ministries, a local nonprofit organization which helps women facing unexpected pregnancies, is in need of the community's help as it continues its mission.
Executive Director Suzanne Burns said this to those gathered for the organization's fundraising breakfast held recently at St. Luke's Episcopal Church.
Foundation House helps women facing unplanned pregnancies by providing housing in a maternity home run by the organization, hosting classes on parenting and other topics, and referring clients to other means of support.
As the only home specifically for pregnant mothers or mothers with babies “within 150 miles,” Burns said the demand is bigger than Foundation House’s ability to help at this time.
“We are nowhere close to big enough to help all the need in even just Bradley County,” Burns said. "We receive calls from Chattanooga, North Georgia and other surrounding areas."
She estimates there are only about 100 maternity homes in the United States which will house women over the age of 18 who are pregnant or have babies, as the majority are group homes for younger teenage mothers.
Burns said the biggest need in this area is for maternity housing for women 18 and older, as younger teens tend to receive more support from their families. The organization recently lost a grant which provided funds last year, meaning more support is needed this year.
It needs financial support to help with its daily operations, and it is currently raising money to find a new home. The current one can only house three mothers and their children at a time. Another goal is to provide "transitional housing" for mothers with older children.
A couple current residents of the organization’s maternity home, Kayla Jones and Laura Ramsey, were in attendance, and Jones spoke at the breakfast.
Jones shared how her family life has for many years involved abuse and drug use. When she found herself expecting her second child, she knew she needed support from someone outside her family to help her get “clean” and become a better mother.
"Thanks to Foundation House, I know longer have to be around drugs and abuse," Jones said. "It's taken me out of my environment, so I can see what other people see as wrong. My family did not see these things as being wrong."
"It's been a neat experience," she added. "It's a great place to be and learn about how I can basically make a new start.”
She is currently 19 weeks pregnant, is now living a drug-free lifestyle and is working toward regaining custody of her 3-year-old daughter. Jones credited Foundation House and the Bradley County Drug Court for helping her get back on the right path.
After the breakfast, Ramsey also spoke of how the ministry has helped her not once, but twice.
Having been a resident of the maternity home in the past, the organization recently stepped in to help her and her 21-month-old son, Noah, when they found themselves homeless.
“They provided a home for us when we had no place to go,” said Ramsey. “This ministry means the world to us.”
Burns said the women who have been held by Foundation House since its inception have faced a variety of struggles, including drug use, homelessness and lack of family support.
In addition to providing housing and helping mothers learn parenting skills, staff and volunteers also help them set goals for the future. These often include finding long-term housing, earning GEDs or college degrees and getting good jobs to support themselves and their children.
"We are very proud of our girls," Burns said. "By the time they complete our program ... they have overcome quite a bit."
Board member Harry Hickey pointed out that supporting the organization means “making an investment” in the lives of local mothers and children.
People can help by donating money or volunteering. In particular demand are volunteers who are able to use their own vehicles to drive the home’s residents to doctor’s appointments and the like.