By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Community Outreach Director, Gianna House
The following article is included in the Spring 2020 issue of Gianna House’s newsletter.
May 18, 2020, Detroit – One year ago, Gianna House became a licensed residence for pregnant teens, and many celebrated with us at our ribbon-cutting. Ten years before, Gianna House was simply a vision in the mind and heart of Sister Diane Masson, CSSF – and what a journey of faith we have walked!
Initially there was only a dream – no building, no funding. The search for a suitable residence had a lot of ups and downs, but Gianna House at last opened in the former St. Veronica convent, whose pastor, Father Stan Pachla, became our champion.
The challenges – not the least of which was funding – seemed endless as we strove to bring the building up to code and ready for occupancy. Thanks to the diligent and creative efforts of so many, our number of donors increased, state grants were awarded, the necessary renovations were completed, our license was issued, and our faith was rewarded.
During the years it took to renovate, God was leading us to respond to needs beyond housing pregnant teens – the needs of pregnant and new mothers who were struggling to provide for their little ones. This led to the formation of our Community Outreach Program.
While it was not part of the original plan, the Outreach Program has grown into a vibrant and growing ministry that has served hundreds of women and children on the margins through classes on parenting, childbirth, personal growth, nutrition, sewing, and finance management.
Additionally, as donations of baby items began pouring in, we distributed them through an “Earn as You Learn” program. For attending classes, mothers earned “Baby Bucks” that they could use to “purchase” baby clothes, diapers, and other supplies, giving them a hand-up rather than a hand-out. Classes also afford much-needed social support.
God provides, and we have received unsolicited offers to teach classes from nurses; social workers; public health educators; lactation specialists; therapists; reading specialists; music and movement teachers; a family issues lawyer; educators from the Michigan State University Extension and CARE of Southeast Michigan; Great Start leaders; behavioral therapists; and instructors of yoga, sewing, and crocheting. Many other volunteers support the Outreach office in reception, data entry, and child care while moms are in class. How greatly blessed this faith journey has been!
During 2019 alone we had 1,136 mother visits. Mothers attended 978 classes and received more than 4,000 baby items. On average, our Outreach mothers are in their 20s and 30s and come from 21 cities throughout the tri-county area.
One of our regular attendees shared what draws her to Gianna House:
“My name is Monique and I have a beautiful daughter, Serenity, who is 15 months old. I have been attending Gianna House since the beginning of my pregnancy. … They are a support group and a family. The classes they offer here are the classes I need to be a better me and to be as good a mom as I can be. I also meet some other mothers here I can relate to. … Here we don’t judge each other no matter what. We try to build one another up.
“I can honestly say I am happy that Gianna House came into my life when it did, and I’m happy that I met the wonderful moms who come here as well. Thank you for everything that you do for us. We truly appreciate you all here.”
It has been quite a faith journey that birthed Gianna House as both a residence for pregnant teens and an outreach to mothers in need. We give thanks to our loving God for blessing us so richly.
Gianna House receives a grant from the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Ministry Trust, which gives grants to organizations in which an Adrian Dominican Sister ministers or serves on the Board. Grant recipients reflect the Mission and Vision of the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
October 19, 2017, Adrian, Michigan – For the past year, an experimental program at the Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse Campus coordinated fundraising efforts for three local organizations, while calling forth the creativity and generosity of Co-workers and Sisters on campus.
The newly formed ADSGives Committee led the campus in raising $2,242.34 for The Salvation Army in Adrian; $3,232 for Catherine Cobb, a domestic violence shelter for women and children; and $4,179.42 for Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County.
ADSGives is an adaptation of the campus’ longtime involvement in fundraising efforts for the local United Way. The total raised was comparable to previous United Way campaigns.
At the recommendation of the ADSGives Committee, the General Council of the Adrian Dominican Sisters approved the continuation of ADSGives and two changes for the coming year: Co-workers will be able to donate to ADSGives through payroll deduction, and the committee will concentrate fundraising efforts on two organizations. The recipients have not yet been selected, but Co-workers and Sisters will be part of the decision-making process by recommending local nonprofit agencies to support.
For the remainder of 2017, the committee has taken on two special projects: a Thanksgiving canned food drive for Associated Charities of Lenawee County and the traditional collection of hats, mittens, and scarves for children in Adrian.
Erin Dress, Director of Human Resources and Committee Co-chair with Gina Ku, Mailroom Office Assistant, said Co-workers are interested in ways they can be partners in Mission with the Sisters. “Because the Committee tied the fundraising efforts for local organizations to the Enactments of General Chapter 2016, they offered concrete ways for the Co-workers to see how their lives could make a difference,” Erin said. “We have made a direct connection between the treasures and talents of the Co-workers and the needs of the people of Lenawee County.”
Along with generosity, the fundraising efforts called on the creativity and sense of community of the Co-workers and Sisters on campus. Events included the ever-popular Jeans Day in which Co-workers purchased the privilege to wear jeans to work on Fridays, raffle drawings, a lemonade and cookie sale, and a socks and underwear drive for people living at Catherine Cobb.
A recent effort for Habitat for Humanity perhaps best exemplifies the spirit of ADSGives. In late August and early September, the Committee invited Sisters and Co-workers on the Motherhouse and Siena Heights University campuses to buy a rose that would be delivered to someone on either campus. With the help of a local business sponsor and at-cost purchasing from the florist, the $3 donation for each delivery went directly to Habitat for Humanity. The 650 roses purchased – far exceeding the committee’s goal of 300 – brought great joy to the recipients and benefited clients of Habitat for Humanity. Every Sister and many Co-workers on campus ended up receiving a rose that day.
“The energy on campus that day was reflective of the Dominican charism and the Dominican spirit of the Co-workers,” Erin said. “I’m constantly in awe of the generosity on campus, not only of the Sisters but of the Co-workers.”
In addition, Co-workers and Sisters have responded to fundraising drives and collections that have met immediate needs. Most recently, they donated $2,030 and 13 gift cards to a health camp for local migrant workers. In addition, for more than 25 years, Co-workers and Sisters have donated hats, mittens, and scarves around Christmas to help children from low-income families stay warm during the winter.
Co-workers at the Motherhouse have also gotten into the habit of saving and bringing in small items that can be used to benefit others. For example, they have brought in plastic lids of all sizes, which are melted down to create benches for school playgrounds. They have collected plastic grocery bags, which are used to create mats for people who are homeless.
The various charitable outreach programs have helped to foster a spirit of giving and of empathy among Co-workers, Gina said. “Some of the Co-workers might have been in those shoes before: of not knowing where that next meal will come from or that next $50 to put into the gas tank.” Even for Co-workers who have not been in that situation, the plight of the people they are serving “hits home,” Gina said.
Gina said she receives a special benefit from serving on the committee. “I’m in the action,” she said. “I’m able to give suggestions and help with activities, giving back to the community. You can’t necessarily do that on a daily basis with your work life and your family life, but being on the committee, I can do something – whether donating or choosing which organizations we give to.”
Feature photo: Members of the ADSGives committee present a donation to Habitat for Humanity of Lenawee County. Also pictured are representatives from Flowers & Such and RE/MAX Main Street Realty who assisted in the rose sale.