Sunday, May 20, 2012

New Beginnings

As the flowers begin to bloom at Blessing House, I am excited by the signs of new life and filled with the promise of new beginnings. We recently celebrated our 7th anniversary and as I walked through our playroom, I looked at the 742 handprints on our wall and thought of the many children who had found safety in the care of our wonderful staff at Blessing House.

There was Jamie and her two brothers who came to stay when their mom had to go to the hospital for an extended stay. She really enjoyed herself at Blessing House because she had the chance to just be a child and have fun.

There was Manny who was so self-conscious because of his size. Manny had not been able to live in an environment that provided healthy meals and so he had acquired eating habits that contributed to his becoming overweight. While at Blessing House, he tried so many new things and discovered that fruits and vegetables weren’t so bad after all. He learned that exercise could be fun and that he really could do some things to help himself. He was quite proud of himself when he discovered he had lost 10 pounds during his stay at Blessing House.

There was Amy, a mom with three children who was homeless and who had dealt with several issues over the last few years. She had difficulty with her relationships, her responsibilities and her decision making and called us often to help her with her children. Then she found herself in a situation where she had time to reflect about all that had happened to her, and she realized how close she had come to losing everything that was most dear to her. Amy made the decision to change her life, to start over. She knew how lucky she was to get a second chance and she wasn’t going to continue down the path she had been going. Amy is now living with her three children in a home, supported by friends and family, blessed with the promise of a new beginning.

Blessing House has been a source of hope for our children and our families. It has given them an opportunity to see that things can be different and the possibilities of new beginnings.

This spring, Blessing House is experiencing another new beginning as we open Grace Center, our administrative and outreach center. Grace Center, located right next to Blessing House, is a home where we will be welcoming the families who need our help and where we will be providing support for them as they deal with the many issues they face.

Grace Center will be a quiet place, a place of comfort, a place of grace to greet those who come to us. It will be a haven that will be a gateway for the children to enter Blessing House and will give our staff the opportunity to give the compassionate care that is so needed by the families that arrive at our door.

When a mom came to visit her child at Blessing House recently and saw all of the activity going on getting Grace Center ready, she asked what was happening there. Sr. Mary explained what we would be doing at Grace Center and the mom became quiet. Then she said, “Do you think you could help me at Grace Center? Even if my daughter isn’t here anymore? I have no one else to help me.”

New beginnings.
Second chances.
Someone to believe and to help them believe.
Someone to care.

I would like to say thanks to all of you who have been so faithful in your support. We could not care for so many without you. We are humbled by the graces we receive.

Peace and blessings to all this Easter season as we join together to celebrate new life.

You Want My What?

Two of our children were getting ready to go home and it was apparent they were leaving with mixed emotions. On one hand, they were glad to be returning to their mom. But on the other hand, they were reluctant to leave their newfound friends at Blessing House.

Then they saw the bags with their names on them sitting on the chairs in the lobby. These bags were decorated with colorful drawings of Blessing House and inscribed with the words, “Blessing House loves you!” When Jaylin saw them, she asked, “What are those for?”

Sr. Mary replied, “Those are your go home bags. There are some surprises in your bags from all of the wonderful people who help us and who want to give you something special to take home with you.”

Maybe leaving wouldn’t be quite so hard after all.

Jaylin and Maya climbed into the backseat of the van clutching their go home bags, anxiously waiting for permission to examine their treasures. No sooner had they pulled out of the driveway, when they opened their bags to find stuffed animals, blankets, books, new underwear, and freshly baked cookies. Their giggles and exclamations of delight told Sr. Mary that they were both amazed and thrilled.

Maya found a stuffed bunny in her bag and knowing how much Jaylin liked bunnies, she decided to give it to her. Jaylin took the bunny and rubbed her hand over its soft whiskers. Jaylin then thanked Maya and told her that since she was so nice, she could have anything that was in Jaylin’s bag.

Maya appreciated Jaylin’s gesture of kindness, but told her that she didn’t need to give her anything. Maya was just glad that Jaylin liked the bunny.

But Jaylin was not about to be outdone. She had learned all about sharing at Blessing House and she knew Sr. Mary was in the front seat listening to them, so she told Maya again, “Maya, I mean it. You can have anything you want in my bag.”

Maya again tried to decline, but Jaylin wouldn’t give up.

“Maya, you can have ANYTHING you want in my bag. ANYTHING!”

Maya was silent for just a moment, then replied, “Anything?”
Jaylin answered, “Anything.”

Maya said, “OK, then I’ll take your cookies.”


Sr. Mary glanced in her rearview mirror and saw that Jaylin was deep in thought. Jaylin looked at the sugar cookies decorated with pink, green and blue frosting sitting in a baggie on the top of her bag. Now what?
Slowly, Jaylin held out the bunny and giving it to her sister replied, “Maya, here’s your bunny back.”

Thanks to the Children’s Guild for the generous grant that will allow Blessing House to continue to provide Go Home bags for our children. These bags mean so much to them and helps makes their transition back home a little easier.
We appreciate you!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Butterflies, Flowers and Rainbows

Sr. Mary walked in the door and smelled the bacon.  She knew the kids would be excited because it was a bacon and eggs breakfast and that always made them happy.

K. finished her breakfast then waited patiently as the others finished theirs.  When Sr. Mary walked in the dining room, K. looked at her anxiously and asked if it was time to leave for school.  Sr. Mary told her it was and K. got up from the table to get ready.

K. knew the routine.  First put on the shoes, grab her bookbag then wait for Sr. Mary to strap in her booster seat.  Once buckled in, she and Sr. Mary went over the “business” of the morning.  Sr. Mary told her what vehicle to look for after school that would be picking her up to go home.  For just a moment, K. hesitated, then asked, “Am I going home after school?” 

Sr. Mary noted the concern in her voice and told her no, that she was coming back to Blessing House.  K. replied, “Oh, good.”

After a few moments, K. spoke.  “I had a dream last night.”

Sr. Mary answered her, “Oh, really, K.?  What was your dream.”

K. told her story.
“I was outside playing, then it started to rain so I was going to have to go inside.  But when I was getting ready to go in, all at once butterflies started to fly everywhere.  Then flowers started to pop out of the ground.  Then I looked up and there was a rainbow in the sky.”

“Wow,”  Sr. Mary said.  “That must have been so pretty.”

K. went on.  “And when I looked at the other side of the rainbow, there was Blessing House.  Then I woke up.”

Who knows what this child would normally dream at night.
But for one night butterflies, flowers and rainbows turned her fantasy world into a reality for her.  She didn’t want the night’s reality to end.

As K. got out of the van, she turned to Sr. Mary and waved.
“See you later!”
Sr. Mary answered, “Yes you will.  Have a great day!”

The dreams of a child.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Prayed for Mom . . . . .

I was driving a child to school this morning and he sat in the back seat telling me about his morning and what he had for breakfast and who he was going to see in school and what his sister did and on and on and on. Then after a very short pause to catch his breath he said, " . . . . and I prayed for my mom last night."  
I asked him, "Did you pray that Jesus would make your mommy better?" 
He just said, "Yeah." 
Then he asked me to put some music on the radio and he was quiet the rest of the way.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Goodbye, friend.

We lost a good friend yesterday.

 Tracey Hawkins has been part of Blessing House since the beginning. Tracey was a Supervisor at Lorain County Children Services when we asked her to help us formulate our approach to plead our case in Columbus. Fortunately for us she was able to join us in Columbus and share from her expertise how Blessing House would complement the work of LCCS. For the past several years she has served as our social worker. She has worked with our families, trained our staff and joined us in many events. This past summer she rode on our float in the International Parade.

 Tracey was a very simple person. She was always helping someone somewhere with whatever was needed. Her heart for others was very large and her concern for children was immense. Her laughter and her quick wit made every encounter something to enjoy.

 As her health problems developed, she would give you a matter of fact update with no complaining. She endured being poked and prodded and never lost her ability to laugh. She was always ready for a visit or a chat and her advice was always welcome. She had a unique way of looking at circumstances that seemed to put everything into perspective.

 Over the past couple of years we had a lot of conversations about faith. We never spoke about religion but rather about God. Her trust in her God and her surrender to accepting whatever God had placed in her life was humbling. She truly knew that God was always caring for her no matter what happened.

 Yesterday Tracey entered into the fullness of God’s loving presence. I would guess she had watched her beloved Steelers win on Sunday and then eased back in her recliner for a quick nap. I imagine she was surprised to awaken on the other side of death with no more pain or discomfort.

 Tracey will truly be missed.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Games People Play

Where do they think of this stuff?
When our children are at the house, they don’t watch television and only watch movies at rest time.  The rest of the time they are using their imaginations and engaging in play with the other children and the staff.  They come up with some pretty creative ideas.

Last week, Miss Pat picked the one watermelon that grew in our garden.  They had been watching it grow for some time and were excited that it was finally big enough to pick.  So they pulled it from the vine and brought it into the house.

One of the boys, R. was amazed at how big it had grown.  He decided it was even as big as the grownups’ heads.  So he decided to have a contest.  He asked Miss R. to get a tape measure and they would measure everybody’s heads and the one closest to the watermelon would win. 

Everyone got measured  then Sr. Mary arrived at the house.  As she walked through the playroom, she was cornered and told it was her turn.  She wasn’t sure what turn she was supposed to be taking and got a little nervous when T. walked toward her with a tape measure.  She wondered, “Hmmm, what was this child going to do?”

T. then asked Sr. Mary to sit down.  Now she was really getting nervous.

T. wrapped the tape measure around her forehead then reported the reading to Miss R. The children seemed to find great joy then in announcing to Sr. Mary that she lost.

Not sure what she was even competing for, she asked one of the boys, “OK, I lost, but what did I lose at?”

P. told her, “We’re trying to see whose head is the closest size to our watermelon?  And Miss J.’s is closer than yours.’

Sr. Mary just looked at Miss R. with that look that said, “Where did you come up with this one?”  Miss R. just shrugged her shoulders and smiled. 

Sr. Mary poured her cup of coffee and went back to her office, listening to the children’s excitement as they announced to Miss J. that she was the winner.  Miss J. replied, “Wow!  Thanks!”  Then she looked at Sr. Mary and said, “I think?”

The watermelon would taste especially sweet that night with dinner.  The children knew it had come from their own garden and a few of them had been there long enough to really watch it grow.

Sr. Mary’s thought as she sat in her office . . . . Too bad it was a seedless watermelon, otherwise she was sure the day would have ended with a seed spitting contest.  She remembered having a few of those with her brothers when she was their age.  But not to worry.  She knew when she came back the next day there would be another story to tell and another competition to enter.

She heard one of the boys say as she got up from her desk,  “Let’s see who can guess how many tomatoes Moses will eat?”

Yep, time to leave and go home.
Game over.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Mulligan for Kids

Join us for the First Irish Open that benefits children at risk across Northeast Ohio. Blessing House is one of two Crisis Care Centers in Ohio that provides temporary residential care for children when families are facing a crisis. Blessing House has taken in children more than 2,000 times to help prevent abuse and neglect.
The First Irish Open is a four person scramble scheduled for Wednesday, September 21st at Pleasant Hill Golf Course (13461 Aquilla Road, Chardon). Shotgun start at noon, $50 per person/$200 for a 4 person team, lunch provided,  Prizes and Raffle. Wear your GREEN!
For more information see: or call Sr. Mary Berigan SND at 440-240-1851.