Officials at Blessing House, a faith-based, nonprofit licensed residential children’s crisis center in Lorain, are hoping to break ground this spring on a new facility that will allow the center to nearly triple its capacity.
Notre Dame Sister Mary Berigan, co-founder and executive director, and Mary Herrick, Blessing House board president, met with Archbishop-designate Nelson Perez recently to sign documents securing the land where the new facility will be built. Accompanying them was Donna Humphrey, director of development.
Blessing House launched the public phase of its “Be Part of the Heart” $3.3 million capital campaign in November 2019 after two years of planning. About half of the goal has been pledged.
The new facility will be built on nearly 3 acres of property behind St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Elyria, not far from the current Blessing House. Construction is estimated at eight to 10 months.
“I think having Blessing House there (adjacent to the parish) will be the start of something special,” Sister Berigan said. She noted Birthright is located in a building adjacent to the property, also.
The archbishop-designate congratulated Blessing House on its success. “I hope the new facility will allow you to continue this important work and to serve even more children in need,” he said.
“This is a very special day,” Herrick said as the papers were signed at the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland offices. “I am blessed to be a part of this.” Herrick credited Sister Berigan and Humphrey with Blessing House’s success, noting both of them have been with the center since its founding in 2005.
Currently, Blessing House occupies a large, five-bedroom house on Grove Avenue in Lorain. It is open 24/7, 365 days per year as a licensed residential children’s crisis center. It also offers support services for families in crisis. A garage on the property was converted to usable space and a handicap ramp was installed.
Sister Berigan said the center offers immediate safety and removal from trauma for children and a voluntary placement option for parents. There is no charge for child or family services. Current capacity of the center is 10 children and Sister Berigan said often that is not enough to meet the need. “We usually have a waiting list,” she said, adding the facility is bursting at the seams.
“From the beginning, Blessing House has been God’s project of hope,” Sister said. In 2007, it was the first children’s crisis care facility to be licensed in Ohio after legislation was adopted the previous year to develop licensing specifically for this type of facility.
Blessing House staff provides family support through advocacy and outreach, assisting parents and families by helping them access community resources. Academic and early childhood development support is provided to its children to help them continue their growth while they remain at the center and to help their parents or caregivers become more aware of their needs.
Sister Berigan spent more than two decades in education as a teacher and school principal, most recently as principal of St. Jude School in Elyria, before launching Blessing House. She and Humphrey were working as guardian ad litems – a person appointed by the court to investigate what is in the best interests of a child -- in the children’s advocacy program Voices for Children when they decided to try and find a way to help families before they became involved in the child welfare system.
After much prayer, consultation and networking, the women were able to gather the resources needed to start Blessing House. A nonprofit organization was formed in 2003, the facility was secured and remodeled and a license to operate as a group home with waivers was secured in April 2005. Two weeks later, Blessing House accepted its first resident.
Since that time, Sister Berigan said Blessing House has served more than 1,500 children ages birth to 12. “Our first child is now 22,” she said. The youngest child assisted was only 2 days old.
Herrick said dozens of faith-based organizations and churches have helped support Blessing House throughout the years. The facility also serves as a hub for dispensing items families may need and sharing services.
The new 16,730-square-foot, one-story building will have eight bedrooms, seven bathrooms and will accommodate up to 28 children. There also will be a large indoor play area and two activity spaces for children to get exercise, play games and do homework. An attached garage and an area designated for donations will be included, also. Sister Berigan said consolidating all the space needs under one roof will increase the center’s efficiency as well as provide better safety and security for the children.
The Be Part of the Heart campaign is accepting pledges for the new facility. Naming rights also are available for the indoor park, outdoor park, a memorial garden, activity areas, friends’ room, family (intake) room, bedrooms and more.
Click HERE for more information on Blessing House and the campaign.