Inside a house on the corner of Hillcrest Road and Black Oak Drive in East Medford, three young women sit and talk in a family-style living room. Two are recent mothers, one is still expecting. One young mother feeds her 4-week-old son, while a 21-month-old girl squeals and claps her hands. White-painted shelves display books and games. The toddler opens a cupboard to reveal a stash of toys.
This refuge in the heart of the city is called Magdalene Home, a place where teen mothers and their babies are given a chance to get on their feet.
Magdalene Home accepts donations of baby clothes in excellent condition, baby supplies, diapers, formula, wipes, toys, strollers and highchairs. Magdalene Home cannot accept car seats due to safety regulations. Homemade quilts are always welcome. A fountain for the front yard, honoring benefactors, is on the wish list. For more information on how to help, contact Tricia Prendergast at 541-773-5040.
"A host family I lived with told me about this place," one of the teens says. "I came from the MOMS program (run by OnTrack Inc.). It's for girls who want to keep their kids and don't want to use drugs anymore."
"We are a stand-alone nonprofit, unaffiliated with any single church," says Tricia Prendergast, executive director of Magdalene Home. "We operate on the Christian principle honoring the dignity and value of every human life."
Magdalene Home welcomes homeless teen girls of all (or no) faith backgrounds who are pregnant or parenting and need a safe and supervised place to live. The home has the capacity to house and care for five young women and their babies.
Three house mothers rotate in eight-hour shifts. "Each girl is responsible to make dinner for the other girls one night a week," explains Diane, one of the house mothers.
Grants from several local private foundations provide in-house training for the young mothers in health care and nutrition, parenting, child development, financial planning and job-search skills.
The young women in residence attend classes through North Medford High School Teen Parent Program, where state- and grant-funded child care is provided. As a condition of residence, Magdalene Home requires enrollment in school or a valid GED program.
"I graduated last year and hope to become a phlebotomist," says one of the new moms.
"I want to be a medical assistant," adds the expectant mother. "I start my GED this week."
"If you're a single mom, and you just need an extra hand once in a while, you get a lot of support here," says the third young woman.
"We've literally had girls show up on our doorstep and, within two hours, move in," Prendergast notes. Parents or legal guardians of the teenagers sign a temporary power of attorney.
"We understand the pregnancy might be the least of their problems," Prendergast continues. "We help them access various agencies and services that are available to them and their child. Come by and visit, knock on the door, take a tour and see what we're like."
Prendergast is establishing a mentor program in which volunteers work one-on-one with a teenager, ensuring they will reach their goals. "We welcome child-care volunteers here in our home and volunteer drivers to take girls to appointments."
Magdalene Home's annual fundraiser, called The Angel Banquet, offers many prizes and gift baskets at auction. The event will be held Feb. 6 in the Sacred Heart Parish Hall.
As the dinner hour approaches, the teens spill into the kitchen. Containers fetched from the refrigerator fill up countertops. Leftover night turns into the savory smell of tacos.
Outside the dining room window, a Japanese maple frames the view, its leaves a blend of gold and red.
"I love you, I love you," the toddler coos, yellow curls rimming her neck, a poof of hair atop her head.
"I love you, too," they answer.