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Something amazing happens every time the founders of the St. Raymond’s Society let God take control.
He ups the ante, with grace to spare.
“We’ve never had a need that God didn’t show up to meet in a way that knocks our socks off,” stated St. Raymond’s Society (SRS) cofounder Mike Hentges.
This time, that meant space opening up next door to the society’s commodious new home for mothers and children.
This has allowed the society to open Super Start Preschool and Infant Care (superstartpreschool.com), a thoroughly Christian environment for babies and preschool-age children of the women availing themselves of SRS’s comprehensive array of services.
“We found childcare to be the No. 1 issue for the mothers we serve,” said cofounder Steve Smith, a member of St. Peter Parish in Jefferson City. “And out of the blue, God sends us a solution.”
St. Raymond’s Society is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that partners with new and expectant mothers to build a thriving future for themselves and their family.
Named in honor of a patron saint of pregnant women, preborn babies and childbirth, SRS was founded by Mr. Smith and Mr. Hentges from a clear directive to help pregnant women who are in crisis, along with their babies and young children.
“We were praying for an end to abortion, and basically God asked, ‘Why don’t you do something to help?’” said SRS Executive Director Mr. Hentges, a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Columbia.
“Doing what’s best”
SRS started out as a loose network of volunteers who in various ways could help women in difficult circumstances say yes to life.
Before long, the founders had purchased a house in Jefferson City to provide safety and shelter for the women the society serves.
SRS then hired a program manager to help the women prepare for successful motherhood and life beyond the home.
Soon thereafter, the organization opened a second house in Columbia. With both houses full, SRS was faced with a decision to expand.
Last year, the SRS board authorized the purchase of a newer, much larger, and better equipped home that had been serving as the Ronald McDonald House in Columbia.
This allowed the society to expand its reach and provide safe shelter and an affirming environment to more mothers and children, while expanding services SRS offers to non-residential clients.
“With staff offices being located in the home, surrounding the mothers with a community of love and accountability has never been easier,” said Mr. Hentges. “This has been a great benefit to the program.”
The goal of SRS’s faith-based, comprehensive, whole-person program is for the mothers to not only be ready to be a parent but also navigate life beyond the home in a healthy way.
“We are not just transitional housing, but rather are more focused on the transformation that is possible,” stated Mr. Smith.
The newest, most unexpected addition to the mix is the preschool and infant childcare.
“The primary reason the preschool exists is for our clients, because they simply could not find childcare,” said Mr. Hentges. “It was not a ‘want to.’ It was a ‘have to.’ Mothers in our program who are unable to secure childcare are stuck. They need to be able to pursue an education or career path.”
Mr. Smith noted that a year of proper childcare can cost more than a year’s tuition at some colleges. One objective with this childcare center was to make childcare more affordable for SRS clients.
Super Start Preschool has capacity for 95 children, with 25 of those spots being reserved for St. Raymond’s clients.
“That means we can also help with the childcare shortage in the greater community,” Mr. Hentges said. “This resource will allow us to serve our client’s most critical need and also grow and advance the Kingdom.”
“It really was a Godsend,” said Mr. Smith. “Originally, we were looking to build a campus. The only thing our new home didn’t have was a preschool. We moved into our new home and God said, ‘Watch this!’”
Super Start Preschool provides a Christian curriculum to children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old and is inspired by the Reggio Emilia curriculum which believes children learn best through play and exploration.
“It’s not just for the women being served by St. Raymond’s,” said Mr. Smith. “We want to encourage people in the community and bring their kids there. It’s a good way for the women we serve to socialize with others from the community.”
“It fits our mission of doing what’s best for the mom,” said Mr. Smith. “We did it because the moms need it.”
“And it’s allowing us to give something back to the community as well,” Mr. Hentges added.
“Stepping out in faith”
SRS’s founding principle is that it isn’t enough to say that abortion is wrong and simply wish a struggling mother well.
People need to cooperate actively with God’s goodness and work against the formidable forces that make many pregnant women feel they have no choice but abortion.
“So, as we’ve been doing through this whole story, we’re stepping out in faith with this school,” said Mr. Hentges. “We are blessed to have a great director for Super Start Pre School. And based on how far SRS has come in the 13 years since we started, we’re confident it’s going to live on and thrive.”
He pointed out that within all the expansion efforts, SRS still operates its home in Jefferson City.
It’s smaller, quieter, and especially suitable for women who need for their location to be discrete, for mothers who have babies with special needs, or for mothers considering adoption.
“It’s an investment in the long-term wellbeing of the women and children we serve, and in our ability to serve people in the future,” Mr. Smith stated.
“Whether in our homes, program, or preschool — in all we do — we are focused on the mother. Conveying the support St. Raymond’s offers is at the core of our mission to help pregnant mothers-in-need say ‘yes’ to life and to motherhood,” Mr. Hentges stated.
Both founders asked for continued prayers for the safety and wellbeing of the mothers they are currently working with, all SRS alumni, the preschool, and children who are growing an learning there, and for the mission of SRS.
Visit superstartpreschool.com for information about enrolling in Super Start Preschool and infant care.
Visit SRSsupport.org for information about the St. Raymond’s Society and ways to help, or follow St. Raymond’s Society on Facebook.