Retasha Smith arrived at The Haven of Grace’s doorstep alone, pregnant and confused. But the organization quickly came to her rescue. A dependable support system and resources to become independent led her to a productive family life.
Smith is one of 100 young women and children impacted by The Haven each year. “We give mothers an opportunity to stabilize their lives and get back out into the community,” notes executive director Scott Gee.
The Haven of Grace was established 25 years ago as an outreach ministry of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Ladue in hopes of breaking the cycle of homelessness, poor health, dependency, and child and adult abuse. Today, the nonprofit occupies almost a city block of the Old North Neighborhood, with a main shelter housing as many as 10 women and 20 children, a group home that offers 10 private rooms and family-style common areas, and Quadrangle Transitional Apartments for up to eight families. “We become a family,” Gee says.
Through on-site health, job readiness and life skills services, the families gain support to become independent. First, The Haven ensures mothers have health insurance, prenatal care and healthy deliveries. Then, a life skills curriculum helps moms set and achieve goals for housing, parenting, education, employment, physical and emotional health, spiritual and character development, and independent living. “We are giving young mothers the opportunity to take the time to turn their lives around, to get back out into the workforce and to learn better parenting skills,” Gee explains. “It becomes a generational change. A mother can ensure her kids can graduate from high school and change the cycle of poverty.”
For further assistance, The Haven partners with outside organizations to provide workshops, including GED classes through St. Patrick Center. Clients can stay in the main shelter for up to a year, followed by a 10-year safety net that includes monthly check-in calls, educational opportunities and group reunion events, such as Moms Day Out.
Among the nonprofit’s recent clients, Asia earned her GED, obtained a job in home health care and secured stable housing in the community. Lynette, who came to The Haven pregnant, homeless and unemployed in 2011, has gained her high school diploma, parenting skills and a housekeeping job. Currently saving for her own apartment—The Haven helps match her funds—she plans to attend college and go into the health care field.
Gee notes the nonprofit couldn’t thrive without its 200 volunteers. “They babysit, prepare meals and help us prepare for classes and events.” The Haven is mainly supported by the community through events that include fundraisers, such as trivia nights, a golf marathon, a community baby shower and its annual gala, which celebrated the nonprofit’s silver anniversary this year.
For more information about The Haven of Grace, call 621-6507 or visit havenofgracestl.org.
Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Betz
Kathy Betz has four focuses in life: faith, family, leadership and education. And those passions were a perfect fit for The Haven of Grace.
Formerly the head of Rossman School for 18 years and then an educational leadership consultant for schools’ administrative searches across the country, Betz experienced the importance of gaining a quality education and leadership skills. So she brought those life lessons to The Haven of Grace in 2005. As a board leader for several years and most recently a consultant, Betz has helped raise millions of dollars in funds for programs that teach clients life-enhancing skills. “It takes a lot of commitment financially to help an organization to be strong and viable, and create the programming to help the people we are privileged to serve,” she notes.
Among her many funding contributions, Betz chaired a capital campaign which raised $2.5 million for the Quadrangle—the nonprofit’s four apartment buildings that provide transitional housing for clients after they leave The Haven’s main shelter. And as part of The Haven’s recent 25th anniversary gala, Betz also led an endowment campaign, securing $1.6 million in funds for future services.
In addition to fundraising efforts, Betz contributes her time to client programming, with a goal of helping the young pregnant women become better leaders of their families and communities. “What touches me the most is seeing them grow as people as we help them believe in themselves and be stronger,” Betz says. “We want them to be the mothers they were meant to be, find employment and create a home for their families.”
As Betz recalls her time at The Haven and looks toward retirement, she credits the long line of strong leadership for the nonprofit’s sustained success through the years. “No organization functions with just one person. It’s important to respond to that call to volunteer and add to that layer of contributions those have laid before you. We’re all called to be in places at a certain point in time, and helping people who need us is truly a gift we give to ourselves.”