ENGLEWOOD — When North Port resident Ashley Koch discovered she was pregnant at 16, she had a lot of growing up to do and no one to turn to.
SOLVE Maternity Home in Englewood was able to help her, but SOLVE may soon need some help of its own. The faith-based organization is seeking a house manager for its maternity home in Bradenton, and may soon need one in Englewood as well.
“The organization takes in expecting mothers facing unforeseen abandonment from her support, either the father and/ or parents that may leave her homeless if she isn’t already,” said Peggy Kerwin, assistant director of SOLVE in Bradenton. “The women taken in are often in unhealthy relationships.”
“Thanks to them, I became a better person,” Koch said.
If a mother is battling addiction, the organization works with community service programs to get her treatment before it considers taking her in.
SOLVE provides expectant mothers organizational life skills and training to be productive in their lives.
“Being a house mom was the best year of my life,” said Kathie Majerchin, director of development at SOLVE. She was the former house manager at the Englewood facility. “I’m a mom, and we’re supposed to lead by example so that they can be good mothers.”
So what does it take to be house mother to a houseful of pregnant women, many of whom are destitute?
“A sense of humor is important so they can be flexible and act as a rock,” Kerwin said.
Since 1976, SOLVE has helped women of all ages cope with unexpected pregnancies to acclimate them to motherhood.
SOLVE arranges for house managers to live in private apartments and to be on call every day to tend to the needs of the residents. There are weekend managers to relieve the weekday managers. House managers are provided a salary, room and board.
Amy King, house manager in Englewood, said the job is rewarding.
“I’ve had eight girls stay at the place in my time here,” King said. “I’m currently helping two girls. One of the girls has had her baby.”
Both of the residents are going to school, King said. They receive counseling. Up to four women can stay in the house at a time.
House managers help the pregnant residents and mothers with transportation to doctors or school. They also act as mediators if any issues arise.
“When it becomes emotional (between the residents), I will bring them to my apartment to speak to all sides — whatever the issue may be and we come to an agreement,” King said. “It’s very easy and I’ve been fortunate in my experience.”
As a resident at SOLVE, Koch said she learned responsibility and self reliance. She reconciled with her parents after she left, she said.
“They reward you for doing your own chores,” Koch said. “When I left, I had a lot of points in this system to pick up baby supplies.”
Koch graduated high school in 2012 and attends State College of Florida. She is working toward a nursing degree.
Qualifying adults stay in the home up to six weeks after giving birth and minors stay up to 90 days. Accommodations can be made if home situations aren’t sorted out.
King said her focus after her tenure as house manager at SOLVE Maternity Home is done is to start a family.
“God is leading me to another path,” she said. “I may consider (being a house manager) in the future. I feel special they chose me to be one.”