Gerard House’s resident “grandma” comforts teen moms-to-be with unconditional love, advice
Maggie Bare always dreamed of living in a big house, surrounded by children. And, for the past 13 years, she has been living that dream, as the doting “grandmother” to the young moms and moms-to-be who call Gerard House their home.
“It’s become my mission. I can’t believe God has chosen me to be here,” says the 76-year-old great-grandmother.
Maggie lives full time at Gerard House, a peaceful home in northwest Wichita where each year up to 20 teen moms find shelter, nurturing and guidance to become successful parents and productive citizens. It is the only licensed maternity home in the Wichita area.
Changing with the times
When Gerard House opened its doors 25 years ago, many of the girls went there quietly to have their babies then put them up for adoption, says the home’s director, Deneen Dryden. Now teen pregnancy no longer carries the stigma it once did and most of the girls choose the difficult path of raising their babies on their own.
While Deneen and other staff members see to it the girls — some as young as 14 — continue their education, learn basic parenting and household skills, and receive the medical care and personal and spiritual counseling they need, Maggie’s job is simply to “be a grandma” to the girls and their babies.
“I’m not there to scold or judge; I’m there to listen and love them and their babies,” Maggie says. “Sometimes we’ll watch movies, play games — or just talk.
“I’m just the grandma — but a lot of them have never had that.”
A shelter through the storm
The girls come mostly from Sedgwick County and surrounding areas — often from foster care or the juvenile justice system. Many have had “horrid home lives,” where incarceration, addiction, abuse and neglect were routine. But they can relate to Maggie because of her own experience as one of eight children of loving — but alcoholic — parents.
In return, Maggie offers “her girls” loving, grandmotherly advice.
“I tell them, God uses everything in your life to prepare you for where he puts you. You think you’re here because of your situation, but God is the one who brought you here because you’ve chosen life for your child. Embrace that fact and learn from it.”
For many of the girls, their relationships with Maggie, Deneen and the other Gerard House staff offer their first taste of a stable home life. And those relationships have paid huge dividends, they say.
Shanna is a typical success story. She came to Gerard House at age 18, and delivered her son, Eli, on Maggie’s birthday. Shanna went on to finish her schooling, get a great job with the U.S. Postal Service, and 11 years later, is able to provide a stable and happy home for herself and her family.
“It’s amazing to watch what happens to these girls,” says Maggie. “Because of what they’ve gained here, the love, support, training and tutoring, they realize ‘I can do it!’ and go on to make a great success of their lives.
“And that’s an awesome reward for their ‘grandma.’”
About Gerard House
Gerard House, now celebrating its 25th year, was a joint mission of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother and the Congregation of St. Joseph, prior to consolidation, when Gerard House became part of Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita.
It offers shelter to pregnant young women in crisis, giving them what they need most: a safe, nurturing shelter where they can learn to become good parents and responsible, self-supporting citizens.
Named for Gerard Majella, the patron saint of mothers, Gerard House is inspired by Catholic principles and philosophy, but is open to all young women in need, regardless of religious beliefs.
Support Gerard House
You can help support the mission of Gerard House with your gifts of:
- Baby care supplies
- Gift cards and cash
Call 316-832-0777 for more information.
Go online at viachristi.org/gerardhouse to make a cash donation.
Or, come to the 50th annual Via Christi Emerald Ball, a benefit gala for Gerard House, March 16, 2013, at the Hyatt Regency Wichita. Visit viachristi.org/emeraldball for more information, or call Via Christi Foundation at 316-239-3520.