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Finding hope and a home

February 27, 2008 : Mitzi Bible

Life is much different now than it was 25 years ago. But at the Liberty Godparent Home, life is still just as precious.

The home, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2007, has a motto: “Changing Lives — Two at a Time.” Originally called “Save a Baby,” a ministry of Thomas Road Baptist Church, the home provides an alternative to abortion for girls ages 12 to 23, by offering a nurturing environment and guidance in deciding whether to parent or to place their baby up for adoption.

Christy West, executive director, said naturally babies are being saved through the ministry, but it’s also making a huge, lasting impact on the mothers.

“When the Bible says God takes all things and works them for good, it’s true,” she said. “For some girls it [pregnancy] is a life-changing event — on both sides [adoption or parenting]. Yes, they’ve had a child, but their life would have been so drastically different if they had not walked through those Godparent Home doors.”

About 50 percent of the girls choose adoption (offered through the adjoining Family Life Services agency) and 50 percent parent.

“It’s all about them [the girls]. They are the stars here,” West said. “They are the ones who are making this — either way — incredible very difficult choice; the world says it’s a lot easier to have an abortion, so in my mind they’re all stars.”

The home provides classes on prenatal care and counseling on parenting and adoption in addition to the girls’ regular school-work (the home helps them to get their GED or finish high school, and to take DLP classes and attend Liberty University). Caseworkers are assigned to work directly with the girls, taking them to their appointments and following up on their care.

West said the home can accommodate eight to 12 girls. The average age ranges from 14 to 17. Some are local, but some come from all over the country. They are referred to the home through crisis pregnancy centers and other agencies.

“For so long it [Liberty Godparent Home] was viewed as just a little Christian church ministry, but I think they’re really viewing us now as a viable option for girls who are in need of services,” West said.

The home was started by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell when, as an outspoken pro-lifer, he was challenged to put some action behind his words.

“That’s how it all came about,” West said. “He [Falwell] said, ‘I’ll just start a home where girls can come.’ It was that simple. Here it is 25 years later and the hundreds of girls he helped … I always tell the girls, it’s so neat to me that God knew 25 years ago that you’d walk through that door and he provided that option for you a long time ago.”

West said the home misses its founder, who occasionally had breakfast with the girls and would show up at fundraising events.

“He just had the biggest heart and loved the girls. He was always open-minded about the girls and what they needed.”

But West said if he were still here, he would be pleased at the direction the home is heading in and its plans for the future.

One goal is to help pregnant girls with drug addictions. West said she is seeing more girls come in with drug problems and is working with LU’s counseling department on creating a specialized program to help them.

“That’s gonna be a little twist to what we’re offering,” she said. “The thing about coming to the Godparent Home, if you did drugs, you’re no longer doing them.”

West is also eager to meet the needs of girls who do not have a home to return to after they have their baby.

“Our biggest goal would be to one day have an aftercare home that would do what we do here, but in a separate facility, that could really help them learn how to get a job, those kinds of things.”

The Liberty Godparent Foundation, the umbrella organization for Liberty Godparent Home and Family Life Services, keeps the home in operation through a few major fundraising events throughout the year, along with a list of individual donors and special offerings taken at TRBC.

Every other year the home sponsors a gala, an invitation-only, black-tie event. This year’s gala was on Feb. 2 and raised more than $64,000. Dee Kohler, a Liberty University student, was a featured speaker.

Kohler, a psychology major, first got connected with the Godparent Home when she volunteered there. Then, at age 20, while living in the dorms in her sophomore year, she found out she was pregnant.

“They were the first people I called when I found out,” she said.

Kohler took a semester off, spent time with her family, then entered the home when she was about 6 months pregnant.

“I needed a place to think, meditate and pray,” she said. She had decided to place her baby up for adoption, but said she never felt pressured either way.

“I never received anything but support and encouragement from them,” she said.

But in the hospital, after she had delivered, she had “a complete change of heart.” (Girls have a 21-day window after delivery to make the final decision).

Her son, Austin, will be 2 in May.

“I honestly believe Austin wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them,” she said. “I was in such a dark, dark place.”

Kohler, who expects to graduate in December, has spoken to other groups about her experience and volunteers at the home a few times a month.

West said there are currently five students at LU who have gone through the home and chosen either adoption or parenting.

Seeing a girl succeed, no matter what choice they make, is welcome affirmation for West and her staff.

“You want them to leave and think back and remember something you’ve said and done (for them) or maybe you were the only person who truly ever cared and wanted to help them. … I think that’s truly our goal, for them to see God’s love through us.”

Fundraisers:

* Eighth Annual Walk for Life,May 3 at Liberty University outdoor track.

* Baby Bottle Campaign, September. (Bottles will be located in churches, around the LU campus and at local businesses to collect donations).

*Winter Market indoor bazaar, November.

To volunteer or for more information, call (434) 845-3466