As she was earning her degree in social work, Mary Dow saw a need for safe housing in Licking County for single, pregnant women.
Two years after completing her degree, Esther’s Place of Grace opened in Newark with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday.
“It was my burden for women who have unexpected pregnancies and are single and unsupported by whoever — family, friends,” Dow said in a recent interview with The Advocate. “Just to have that safe home environment. A lot of women come out of abusive homes, relationships, couch surfing, homelessness. It (the home) should provide that in this area and give them a chance to parent and be safe and learn some parenting skills, learn some life skills, get their education a little bit further, and get a good job.”
Along the journey toward opening the home, Dow encountered both challenges and successes. In addition to losing both her son and mother within a few months of each other, Dow also discovered there was a lot to fundraising and to starting a nonprofit organization. But she soon found she had a lot of help along the way, in support from her husband and others.
“It’s a lot more than I thought it would be. But I know God’s seen me through all of that,” she said, adding the home opened Aug. 1 with their first resident.
According to Dow, Esther’s Place of Grace is renting a home in Newark which has three beds available currently.
Noting the facility is not an emergency shelter, Dow said “I just feel blessed that it can be something in the community people can use as a resource that really, truly want to parent. A place where people come work through obstacles in their life.”
Dow said it will be a place where pregnant women feel they can let their guard down so they can work or attend school and better their lives to leave the home and live self-sustaining lives.
Women who are accepted into the home can stay up to one year after their child is born. Dow said criteria for being accepted is to be pregnant or have a child newborn up to 3-months-old. The house has a screening interview to be accepted. Dow said the women must also not have a current drug addiction and not be fleeing any serious domestic violence. Those women would be referred to New Beginnings, a domestic violence shelter in Newark.
Dow said the women must also be willing to participate in programming and be part of a group living facility that has rules.
Some of Ester’s Place of Grace programming includes courses on pregnancy and birth, parenting courses, smoking cessation, healthy boundaries, safety training, counseling, life skills programs and more.
Esther’s Place of Grace board member and volunteer Pam Ianni said she met Dow and her husband through her volunteer work at Heartbeats in Newark. She said she decided to get involved because the maternity home fit in nicely with the work she was already doing at Heartbeats.
“It’s a need in the community for women who are in a very difficult spot in their lives, and find themselves pregnant and need a safe place where they’re loved and can be helped to become the very best mom for their new child,” Ianni said.
As Esther’s Place of Grace opens and looks toward its future, Ianni said she hopes their team will be able to meet the needs of women who need a safe place to live and a chance to make change and break generational struggles.
“Some of our goals are to have women come into the program – basically it’s the individuals’ goals that we seek to accomplish, that we want them to accomplish,” Dow said. “Our ministry is to their physical, spirital and emotional needs, and we want to empower them to focus on their goals while they’re in the program. They work on their life skills, healthy boundaries, healthy choices, breaking generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.”
To contact Dow about being accepted into the home or to volunteer, contact Dow at 614-226-0864 or email@example.com. To make a donation, visit EsthersPlaceOfGrace.com.