EAST STROUDSBURG – When she was just 20 weeks pregnant, Jessica found herself in need of a place to live. Not knowing where to turn, she was encouraged to contact Shepherd’s Maternity House in East Stroudsburg.
Within days, Jessica was staying in a safe, comfortable home where she was able to prepare for the birth of her son.
“I am so grateful for the fact that I found this, just for the simple fact of being here while I was pregnant. I got to get comfortable,” Jessica said. “I worked almost my entire pregnancy. They took me to and from work and took me to my doctor appointments.”
Operated by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, Shepherd’s Maternity House is a transitional housing facility for women who are single and pregnant, or who have just given birth.
“The staff here is wonderful. This is one of the greatest opportunities that I’ve ever experienced,” she explained.
On July 28, 2022, the world was blessed by the birth of Jessica’s son, Jaylin.
“He is fantastic. He sleeps four to five hours and eats every four hours when he’s not sleeping,” Jessica said. “I am so happy to have him.”
Without Shepherd’s Maternity House, Jessica does not know where she would have ended up.
“Without this place, I have no idea what I would have done. It was scary as far as being pregnant and just having no answers and then coming here and actually being able to have somewhere comfortable to stay,” she added.
Christie’s story is very similar.
She came to Shepherd’s Maternity House in October 2021 and gave birth to her daughter, Abigail, six months later in April 2022.
“Abigail is a very happy baby. She’s very sweet. Her name means ‘joy’ so it’s very suiting for her. She’s very joyful and she loves it here. She loves everyone here, all of the staff,” Christie said.
Christie was referred to Shepherd’s Maternity House by a local pregnancy resource center. Staff members quickly helped to get her settled and comfortable.
“I’ve gotten donations, even maternity clothes, things for the baby and other resources,” she explained. “They have pointed me in the right direction so I can get on my feet.”
From the minute she walked into Shepherd’s Maternity House, Christie said she was given a warm welcome.
“I was surprised to see it was such a home-like atmosphere,” Christie said. “All of the moms staying here are here for one another. We support one another. We have our own challenges but we’ve been able to learn from one another.”
Every mother and baby who comes through the door of Shepherd’s Maternity House is loved beyond measure. As many as eight women and eight infants at a time are able to stay at the facility for up to 18 months.
More than just a roof over their heads and safe place to sleep, Shepherd’s Maternity House staff provide resources and support for the women to become self-reliant.
From parenting classes, rides to doctor’s appointments, and providing donated clothing, diapers, bottles and toys – every need of both mothers and babies is met.
“It is a blessing and it is so needed. I’m so grateful because I didn’t know where I was going to go when I first got pregnant and I wasn’t aware that there were even maternity shelters so it was a relief,” Christie explained. “There are so many women, like me, who don’t know where to go. They may be afraid and they need a safe place.”
Donations to the 2022 Diocesan Annual Appeal benefit Catholic Social Services and help to keep the doors of Shepherd’s Maternity House open.
“We are so grateful for all the donations from all the local parishes and parishes in our diocese who have given Shepherd’s Maternity (House) so much. The girls and the infants have no need,” Kathy Chelednik said.
For the last five years, Chelednik has served as supervisor of Shepherd’s Maternity House.
“Shepherd’s Maternity House is not your typical shelter. It becomes a home and it gives the women a home to be in,” she explained.
Chelednik has seen first-hand how gifts to the Diocesan Annual Appeal directly benefit mothers like Jessica and Christie. She has also seen how little miracles, like Jaylin and Abigail, are provided a loving and nurturing place to call home for the first months of their lives.
“A lot of women come in with nothing and leave with a lot of dignity,” Chelednik said.