Two pregnant women with young children have moved into the Anne’s Anchor transitional maternity home in Bowling Green to begin a powerful transformation of their future.
And their children’s future.
“Homeless to homeowner: that’s what we’re all about,” said Georgia Hearn, Anne’s Anchor’s program director. “We’re breaking the generational cycle of poverty by teaching the mom all of these important life skills and then in return she teaches those same skills to her children, who then will teach them to their children.”
“It’s that ripple effect that we’re most excited to see,” she said.
Anne’s Anchor is a locally funded interfaith nonprofit agency that provides a safe, welcoming community for pregnant women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
The agency’s staff and board of directors are committed to helping the residents, as well as nonresident clients in the community, acquire the skills they need to become the best parents, providers and community members they can be.
“It is truly a self-sufficiency program,” said Mrs. Hearn, a member of St. Clement Parish in St. Clement. “A successful client is a mom who is willing to work harder than she’s ever had to work before.”
Residential clients commit to spending a full year in the program but may end up living at the home for three years with their children, saving up money and acquiring valuable life skills.
“We know that big changes take big time,” said Mrs. Hearn. “We’re not going to have them launch until they’re fully ready.”
Moms in training
Anne’s Anchor is named in honor of St. Anne, mother of the Blessed Mother and grandmother of Jesus.
Its goal is to help young mothers learn how to do for their families what St. Anne helped Mary prepare to do as mother of the Savior.
Clients use the “My Ridiculously Amazing Life” curriculum developed by Jane Dalton, executive director of the Bridges program in Rolla.
That challenging and effective method for teaching essential life and parenting skills focuses on seven core competencies for achieving self-sufficiency.
Mrs. Dalton’s daughter-in-law, Faith Dalton, a graduate of the Bridges program and certified Options Coach and Client Success Coach for the Pregnancy Resource Center of Rolla, is helping Mrs. Hearn implement the program at Anne’s Anchor.
Faith and Jane are members of St. Patrick Parish in Rolla.
Faith’s story was featured in the January 2021 issue of Columbia, magazine of the Knights of Columbus, and the April 2, 2021, issue of The Catholic Missourian.
Mrs. Hearn noted that a relationship with God is essential to achieving “My Ridiculously Amazing Life” — but timing is key.
“What Faith told me is, when the moms first come into a program like this, spirituality is the last thing on their mind,” said Mrs. Hearn. “Many of them as individuals have never been exposed to God or spirituality.”
“But,” Faith told her from experience, “once I learned to focus on spirituality, everything else fell into place.”
As such, each of the moms in the program takes part in daily devotions and is required to attend weekly church services with her children.
Board members Paulette Bruch, Carrie Capps and Michelle Nacke began laying the groundwork for Anne’s Anchor in 2018, filing paperwork with the IRS, visiting churches, lining up financial support and searching for a house to buy and renovate.
“They were trying to raise over $100,000 to purchase a house,” said Mrs. Hearn. “And then COVID really set them back.”
They kept praying.
“And one day, Larry Gamm the treasurer of Second Baptist Church called and said, ‘We have a house and we want to give it to you,’” Ms. Bruch recalled.
The home served for many years as a parsonage and had been well maintained.
“Their minister bought his own home in the community which left the parsonage vacant, so they gave us that house!” said Mrs. Hearn. “That’s when the process really took off.”
Volunteers set about making minor renovations over the winter.
Meanwhile, every church in Pike County — including St. Clement Parish in St. Clement and St. Joseph Parish in Louisiana — stepped up to support the program.
“All God’s doing”
Mrs. Hearn holds an associate degree in nursing and worked as a nurse until she and her husband, Cody, had their first child.
They now have two girls, ages 7 and 4.
Mrs. Hearn then served as lead teacher in the preschool room of the Learning Center in Bowling Green.
“That experience, along with being a first-time mom myself, helped me see how important early childhood education is,” she said.
She eventually decided to go back to school to study human services.
Bachelor’s degree in hand, she went to work at Champ Clark Service Coordination in Bowling Green, assisting people who have developmental and intellectual disabilities.
“We assisted them by supporting, advocating, connecting and empowering those individuals and their families to resources so they could live a full and enriched life. That’s when I realized a big missing link in the government system.”
Namely, she said, much of the available assistance does little to help people improve their lot and rise out of poverty.
“People wind up having to be reliant on these programs that are not designed to be relied on long-term,” she stated.
That’s one of many reasons she loves Anne’s Anchor so much.
“This program really gives these moms the hand-up they need to be able to provide for their child, so they can be the mom that God intended them to be,” she said.
Ideally, that means earning enough money to support herself and her children in their own home, while maintaining a strong relationship with Jesus.
“We give them all the tools so that they can do it, and then we celebrate their accomplishments,” she said.
Mrs. Hearn accepted an invitation to serve on the Anne’s Anchor board of directors last October.
At her first meeting, she was asked to create a job description for a program director.
“So I did that, and the next meeting, we talked about who we should hire,” she recalled. “And the other board members said, ‘We think we already have a candidate.’ And I said, ‘Great! Who do you have in mind?’”
It turns out, they thought Mrs. Hearn’s experience and temperament make her an ideal candidate for the job, which includes managing the home and coaching the residents.
“It’s all God’s doing!” she said. “I didn’t see it at the time, but He’s been preparing me for this all along.”
“It’s up to them”
One of the mothers who recently moved into Anne’s Anchor painted an image of a flower for the home’s May 6 Grand Opening celebration.
On the painting, she wrote: “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.”
“I love that!” said Mrs. Hearn. “She’s only been living at Anne’s Anchor for a week, but she already feels that now she’s in a positive new environment, she’s going to be able to blossom.”
Hard work and accountability play a large role in creating that kind of environment.
“We work with these young women to help them establish goals and work toward becoming self-sufficient, where they are no longer reliant on any kind of government assistance,” said Mrs. Hearn.
The core competencies range from education and job training, to employment, to personal finance and budgeting, to transportation, to parenting and life skills.
“It’s not a step-by-step program — that’s not how adult life works,” she noted. “All of it comes at you at once. So we help them figure out what is coming at them most immediately, and work on that first.”
Participants enroll in the Dave Ramsey “Financial Peace” course to learn how to save money for a car, for an emergency fund and eventually for a down payment on a house.
Those who have not finished high school enroll in a program to prepare for the high school equivalency exam and to continue their education after that.
The moms are expected to work at least part-time outside the home while taking the required classes.
“We are there to support them and help them learn life skills — things that are integral to raising children and running a household but that they might not have learned at home,” said Mrs. Hearn.
“We don’t do anything for them; we are very much against creating any kind of dependence,” she said. “We support them through it and talk them through it and help them make their goals, but it’s up to them to actually do it and follow through.”
The same goes for community clients who do not live in in the Anne’s Anchor home.
The program focuses on being positive and grateful while working through struggles, with clients being encouraged to ask themselves, “What was your big win for today?”
Whenever appropriate, the babies’ fathers are encouraged to take part in the programs that help them become better parents.
“We encourage co-parenting and keeping up the communication between Mom and Dad while encouraging Dad to spend time with the child,” said Mrs. Hearn.
“God is in charge”
Mrs. Hearn asked for prayers for the moms and children who are being helped by Anne’s Anchor, as well as the life coach who is working with them.
“And of course, we pray that God will continue to bring us donors to sustain our program, because we are 100-percent community funded,” she said.
She noted that most who have applied to live at Anne’s Anchor or to receive services are from Pike County.
Twelve women applied for the two available units in the home.
“So there’s definitely a need for this in our community,” she said.
The former parsonage property has room to build more houses that would allow Anne’s Anchor to serve more clients.
“That’s a possibility we could look into in the future,” said Mrs. Hearn. “God is in charge, and we’ll see where He leads us.”