Great Grants: The Story of Blessing House
Eamon, the therapy dog, waits patiently for his charges. His name means “blessed protection”, and it could not be more appropriate for an animal charged with watching over the most young and fragile of children, those whose families are on the verge of crisis. Eamon is the resident dog at Blessing House, a temporary respite facility for Lorain County children and families facing an emergency, which will complete its licensing process and open and serving the public by the time this newsletter is published. “Our goal is to reach children and their families before they become victims of violence and neglect,” says Sister Mary Berigan, Blessing House’s Program Director. “We will provide respite care for children from birth through age ten up to fourteen days when their parents reach a crisis point or if the parent needs medical care and has no one else to watch over his or her family.”
Blessing House is a warm, bright, cozy, and family-oriented space lovingly decorated by volunteers and designed to make children and their parents feel at home immediately. While staying at Blessing House, children will receive home cooked meals and age-appropriate programming. As part of the intake process, parents are interviewed to see what additional needs they have and receive referrals for counseling or to other social service agencies. Shared meals with their children and interaction through phone calls and drop in visits are encouraged.
The concept for Blessing House began in 2002 as three women involved with youth issues and as Voices for Children, an advocacy organization, volunteers discussed childcare needs and the gaps in services in Lorain County. “Our main concern was finding preventative ways to forestall abuse and neglect and to help keep families together,” says Sister Mary, one of the three women who also include Donna Humphrey and Jane Jonesco. The group researched multiple and in particular visited 5 respite programs in Cleveland, Columbus, Michigan, Milwaukee, and Fort Wayne. The idea for Blessing House came out of their research.
The mission of Blessing House has touched many caring individuals in Lorain County. From Girl Scouts who have created the Eamon’s Pillow Project where each child who visits Blessing House picks out a special pillow that they then can take home with them, to the North Coast Building Industries Association and Rowland Enterprises who have supported the actual rent and needed construction to the home, the community has generously offered its support. The Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County, through the generosity of the Evan and Cindy Nord Fund and the Robert I. and Helen J. Woodward Fund, made a grant of $25,000 to Blessing House for start-up and operating costs.
So Eamon will not have to wait much longer. Days of quietly comforting children by letting them lay against his warm, golden fur or playing with them in Blessing House’s backyard are fast approaching.
Those interested in learning more about Blessing House or those who are interested in volunteering may call Sister Mary at (440) 670-0552 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.