"It's hard to watch a girl reject the help and choose to stay in a life of hardship and sorrow."
Marietta Montalvo, 62, of Pottsville, PA, started a faith-based resident home for pregnant teens and teenage mothers in order to provide them a safe environment to pursue their education and develop parental and life skills.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Marietta: Three years ago, I knew I had a call on my life to help teen girls in need, including pregnant teens and teen mothers. Starting out with faith, I formed a delegation of women who desired to help. We were donated a home, and volunteers came to prepare it to serve as a home for teen girls. In 2001, we were licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a resident home for teen girls in need of care.
Our ministry not only offers residential care. We have developed a comprehensive program to help those without hope to fulfill their dreams and abilities. We have live-in, caring house parents to oversee the girls and witness a positive family structure. We also have social services on the grounds, which offer weekly counseling to the girl and family when appropriate; weekly workshops and group sessions; an on-site cyberschool that meets all the requirements of the Department of Education; a nursery while the young mothers attend school; and an independent living preparation phase. We encourage a return to abstinence, continued education, positive parenting, and re-direction of lifestyle. We believe it is essential for a teen, who has lacked family support or the proper environment, to learn respect for herself and others, to experience structure and positive discipline, to be given an opportunity to advance her abilities and skills, and to continue her education in order to be a positive member of society and provider. Our Christ-centered home is a faith-based ministry that provides love, guidance, patience, and support.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Marietta: Angel Baby Ministries, Inc., Hope House Home for Girls, 305 Mahantongo Street, Pottsville, PA.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Marietta: Teen girls in need, pregnant teens and teen mothers and their babies benefit from this ministry. A girl desiring to change her life situation and to have opportunities to improve her way of life.
What inspired you to get involved?
Marietta: Faith in God and knowing the need for such an outreach.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Marietta: Seeing transformations in the lives of young mothers and knowing we helped make it possible for them to succeed. One girl was from the streets, and she and her baby were with us for three years. She became an honor student and will begin nursing school next summer.
What is/was the hardest part?
Marietta: Not sharing the same objectives and goals as county case workers. We want our girls to focus on education and program goals in order to prepare them for success when they leave. Most county workers put great emphasis on getting part time jobs as soon as possible. These girls are so needy, and they already have experienced the "part-time" work world. They need support, guidance and time to securely advance themselves. Their plate is so full with school, studies, workshops, counseling, activities, cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc. The time left needs to be dedicated to quality time with their babies or toddlers.
We also find it difficult when we are told that our prayers for our girls trouble the case workers. We believe our program offers the missing link to success that is lasting. Girls come after having been bounced around like ping-pong balls, including in boot camps! We now are a faith-based ministry in order to accomplish our mission through other provisions.
Also, it's hard to watch a girl reject the help and choose to stay in a life of hardship and sorrow.
What was the biggest surprise?
Marietta: When we were donated a lovely home for our mission.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Marietta: That you must stick to structure and tough love in order to make a difference in the lives of these girls. Also, you must believe in your mission and follow through with it, no matter how hard the road is to do it! You cannot compromise when you know other programs have failed, and yours, given the opportunities, brings success.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Marietta: You need a heart for the less fortunate, a listening ear, words of encouragement, a non-judgmental attitude, and faith in what you are doing.
© Foundation Center
All Rights Reserved.