By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published March 5, 2015
EAST POINT—A gift of a 15-room home from the Archdiocese of Atlanta to the Sheltering Grace Ministry will allow the nonprofit program to serve a greater number of homeless pregnant women.
The donated home, located in East Point, was previously a retirement home owned and operated by the archdiocese.
The donation will enable Sheltering Grace, based in Marietta, to expand its services. The ministry currently can provide housing at any given time to a maximum of six women in two 3-bedroom homes. Sheltering Grace’s current homes will be used in the future to launch a new ministry program, The Academy.
“The gift of this home is a true answer to prayer, since we will be able to provide shelter and resources to three times as many women as we have been able to help previously,” said Dr. Ralph Bell, executive director of Sheltering Grace Ministry. “We receive two to three calls for service each day. Now, with the new home, we will commence the workforce initiative so that women who have only had minimal training in the workforce can greatly improve their chances of obtaining gainful employment.”
The Academy will bring services of Sheltering Grace “all into one hub,” said Bell.
The academy program will extend the ministry’s current workforce initiative program and offer GED classes, life skill classes, as well as professional certificate courses offered by a local technical college or university, including Kennesaw State University.
“We are a Christian organization. We truly believe this is God’s organization,” said Bell.
Pledge drive to help with renovations
A pastoral counselor, Bell said the ministry began a pledge drive on March 1 and is seeking pledges spread over a 10-month period. The East Point home, vacant since 2006, will need new heating and air conditioning units, and eventually carpet. There is another priority to tackle before moving to the home.
“It needs to be painted inside and out,” said Bell.
A golf tournament to raise funds will be May 28 at Governor’s Towne Club in Atlanta. Bell said about 75 volunteers will be needed to help make the tournament a success.
Ministry has helped hundreds
Bell has served as director of the organization for four years, first beginning as a volunteer with his Sunday School class, and then as a counselor.
Sheltering Grace first opened in 2006 and has served hundreds of women, and their children. Bell said 90 percent of the clients have no skills beyond having worked in the fast food industry.
“I have a success story that will blow your minds,” said Bell.
One young woman was on the streets and pregnant with her first child. She still had a relationship with the baby’s father when arriving at Sheltering Grace. The young lady made the most of what the program had to offer.
“She finished Kennesaw State with an accounting degree,” said Bell. She is now pursuing an advanced degree, and is involved in Toastmasters. Bell said the woman’s son is thriving because of the example his mother is providing.
“She’s a terrific person,” he added.
The child’s father is serving a prison sentence for murder.
Another former client served as a residential coordinator for three years, and Bell said many often return to help in some capacity, grateful for the assistance provided in their time of need.
Women served must be at least 21 years of age. Any homeless women under that age are referred to The Living Vine, a licensed maternity home for younger mothers in Savannah.
At Sheltering Grace, women can stay up to six months after the baby is born, and must be working. The program engages retired teachers to serve as tutors.
Not only does the program provide a safe place to live during pregnancy, Sheltering Grace also offers prenatal, childbirth and parenting classes as well as weekly counseling. The ministry helps the women develop a customized life plan based upon training related to life skills, stress management, finance, career building, spiritual development and household management. The goal is to break the generational cycle of poverty and dysfunction and create a new legacy for the children.
An open house for the new home will be announced at a later date.
Bell is grateful for the support from a number of churches in Atlanta, including several Catholic parishes.
“But for the churches … we would not be here,” said Bell.
For information or to give to Sheltering Grace Ministry, go to http://shelteringgrace.org or call Dr. Ralph Bell at 678-337-7858.