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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Pregnant and in crisis
Angel House helping young mothers prepare for brighter futures
Published Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:00 pm
by Michaela L. Duckett

The staff and residents at Angel House Maternity Home say they share a familial bond. Pictured from left: Former Angel House resident Donna Pritchard with one-year-old son; Angel House staffer Earleen Nero; Angel House residents Khadijah Gill and Terrika Davis.

“The worse feeling, as a mother, is having your child taken away,” said 20-year-old Yamara Vanderhorst, who is homeless and four months pregnant with her second child.

She had her first child at age 17. At the time, she was staying with her father and stepmother. Vanderhorst said her relationship with her stepmother was strained. After a heated argument, her parents kicked her out of the house. She was 18 and had nowhere to go.

Vanderhorst stayed at the Salvation Army Center of Hope Shelter for Women and Children on Spratt Street. Six months later she was served papers stating that she had lost custody of her daughter due to neglect. Her parents are raising the child.

“That is the worst feeling to be told you cannot have your child, something that you have given birth to,” she says. “It’s terrible. That’s something I’m not trying to go through now – having my child taken away from me.”

For the past two years, Vanderhorst has spent her nights either sleeping at the shelter or staying with friends and family. So when she found out in February, a day after her 20th birthday, that she was pregnant all she could do was cry.

“I felt like my world collapsed,” she said. “A second baby – I didn’t think I could handle this, but as time went on and I started to feel my baby move, I knew I had to do what I’ve got to do… I’ve got to get myself together.”

At the recommendation of a friend, she checked out a maternity home for pregnant adolescent and adult women in crisis called Angel House.

Vanderhorst has been a resident at Angel House for two weeks, but can already see a difference. She’s enrolled in courses at Central Piedmont Community College to complete her high school education. She’s also taking parenting classes and meeting with a counselor to learn better coping skills.

She said being in a stable environment is helping her to stay focused.

“I’m not as stressed out,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about where I’m going to lay my head at night... I know I have somewhere to come.”

Un-breaking the broken

Angel House Executive Director Angela Williams Walters founded the nonprofit organization seven years ago with a mission of empowering residents to realize their ability to break the cycles of poverty and abuse and create promising lives.

Angel House offers adoption support services, early child development education, counseling services, life skills training, mentoring programs, prenatal care, parenting and pregnancy prevention education classes (for both parents), and group therapy.

The maternity home has the capacity to house six women for the duration of their pregnancies. The goal is for them to be self-sufficient and able to provide a safe environment for their children by the time they give birth.

Many of the women who come through the doors of Angel House grew up in broken homes.

“I’ve seen some girls come through here that have been from right here in Mecklenburg County,” said Earleen Nero, one of Angel House’s two fulltime housemothers who oversee the day-to-day operations of the home. “They have their whole families here, but they have no support... It can be discouraging, overwhelming. Especially if you are pregnant with your first child and just out there in this big ol’ crazy world by yourself.”

In many ways, the residents and staff at Angel House become like a close-knit family.

“The staff here really cares,” said 22-year-old Terrika Davis, an Angel House resident who is five months pregnant with her first child. “There is a reason why they call this ‘Angel House.’ When I walked in, it’s like I felt a positive aura in here… It makes you want to do better.”

Prior to Angel House, Davis said she had given up on herself. In many ways, she didn’t feel her life was worth living.

“I was wild,” she said. “I didn’t care what happened. It was just whatever. It was chaos. It was dangerous life to be living. I didn’t care about anything. Angel House changed all of that.”

Davis said her troubles began when she was 11 years old. Davis found out that she was adopted and the revelation completely turned her world upside down and made her feel unloveable.

“It messed me up,” she said. “I wondered why my mother didn’t want me… It had me very discouraged to know that the person that birthed me didn’t want me. I felt like nobody out here wanted me… I didn’t care about anybody because nobody cared about me.”

Facing motherhood has given Davis a reason to care. She has committed herself to changing her life around and doing everything in her power to give her child a better chance at life.

Davis said the four weeks she has spent at Angel House have completely changed her outlook on life. For the first time in a long time, she is finally embracing the possibilities of having a brighter future – all because someone took the time to show her that they care.

Not ready for motherhood

Like Vanderhorst, Donna Pritchard also experienced the anguish of losing custody of a child. The 27-year-old has lost custody of three. Her first two are now in the guardianship of family members. Her third child was adopted at six months.

“With my third one, five sheriffs just came into the room… and they took her away. I haven’t seen my daughter since,” she recalls. “I went downstairs, fell to my knees and prayed for another chance. I needed a child in my life. I had all of these children, and I have none of them… So God blessed me with [a son]. He also blessed me with a man that helps me provide for and take care of him. With my other children, their fathers just up and left me by myself. It was hard to try and do it on my own.”

Pritchard said that when she became pregnant with her fourth child, she knew that she had to do everything in her power to keep him. She came to Angel House, as she had done with her third pregnancy, but said the second time around was different. She had grown tired of partying and sleeping in abandoned houses.

“It was time for me to grow up, be a woman and do everything in my power to raise this child like he deserves to be raised,” she said.

Pritchard, who grew up as a foster child, now lives with her one-year-old son and his father. She said that she spends her time focusing on her family and making sure she raises a healthy child.

Don’t judge me

People often question why someone would bring a child into the world when they cannot financially support the child or are not mature enough to raise a family.

Khadijah Gill, a resident at Angel House, said it’s because of God.

“God does everything for a reason,” said Gill, who is eight months pregnant with her first child. “If I wasn’t strong enough or able to take care of a child, I wouldn’t be pregnant. I feel like something would happen.”

The 21-year-old moved to Charlotte from Greensboro three years ago in an effort to reconnect with her mom, who had been incarcerated for much of Gill’s life.

She had fallen on hard times in Greensboro and said her mom offered to help. One month after moving in, Gill said her mom kicked her out. She was on the streets with nowhere to go.

“I’ve been roaming around ever since,” she said. “Just surviving.”

Gill was staying at the Salvation Army Center of Hope Shelter for Women and Children when she learned she was pregnant. Even though she did not know how she would manage taking care of a child, she said abortion was not an option. It isn’t something she believes in doing.

She found out about Angel House online, and has been living there since January. She is now employed as a waitress and has plans to return to school to pursue a career in physical therapy. She hopes to own her own business someday.

Nero said that even though the women at Angel House may not be ready to have children when they arrive, they are given the resources to prepare themselves for motherhood by the time they leave.

“When they come here, it seems they are in positions where they are not able to provide for a child,” she said. “But I’m happy to say that 85 percent of our clients, before they leave Angel House, are self-sufficient. They are able to take care of themselves and a baby. That’s what we strive for is for them to have jobs and housing when then leave.”

Davis adds that regardless of a woman’s station in life – married, single, rich or poor - she still may not be ready for motherhood.

“You can never be ready for a baby, especially if it’s your first,” she said. “You can never be fully prepared.”

For more information on Angel House or to make a donation to help pregnant mothers in crisis, visit www.angelhousematernityhome.org.



Great job Angel House!!!! Don't give up ladies. God is good and so is Life.
Posted on May 2, 2014

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