An outreach in Ontario, Canada, that specializes in helping single moms create homes of their own is currently on the hunt for a home of its own.
Founded in 2006, First Step Options offers pregnancy testing and help with the decision-making process in the midst of an unexpected pregnancy, as well as abortion recovery, parenting services, and even a homemaking class.
For years, the center has been operating out of the parsonage at St. John’s Lutheran, but First Step’s recent growth is prompting the group to find an upgraded facility, board chair John Lofstedt said.
Now, they're raising money to build, buy, or rent a 1,700 square foot office building in the middle of Pembroke, a city of 16,200. The relocation, Lofstedt hopes, will allow First Step to take its reach to the next level.
Meanwhile, the center is helping single moms create their own life-giving homes. Last year, they started partnering with author, speaker, and teacher, Elaine Bond. A single mom of three adult daughters, Bond founded and developed a program called “Home with a Heart.”
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A 12-week class, Home with a Heart teaches moms how to parent, prepare healthy meals, and organize their homes and money. Plus, they'll learn how to find jobs or run a business out of their homes, so they can spend more time with their kids.
The program’s proven effectiveness—and a partnership with a local Guess store that provides an extra incentive for women to finish the program—has helped First Step earn a pair of government grants that have allowed them to increase their reach and credibility in the community.
Aside from the new threads donated by Guess, graduates of the program also gain other, more lasting, benefits.
“[The course] provides a sense of emotional stability as the home comes into order and the children's needs are met,” Christy Cartmell, First Step’s volunteer grant writer said, adding that participants in the program learn organization techniques and principles that de-stress their lives and that of their families.
Cartmell and others at First Step have watched with joy as single mothers learn to reorder their homes. With a new mindset and structure to their homes, a mother’s revamped outlook means more stability in jobs and a better, more positive environment her children.
“The demand on social assistance, family and medical resources can be greatly reduced if sole support parents receive the necessary supports to help themselves become employable in a job they can enjoy,” Cartmell said.
For First Step’s leadership and staff, that call to serve women, children and families with what they need to build stability into their lives cuts right to the core of their mission.
“Jesus states, ‘I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance,’” Greta Landry-Masseau, the organization’s executive director, said. “That is our focus and that is our hope—for our clients and for the world in which we live.
With First Step’s success in helping its clients create homes, Landry-Masseau hopes to see the organization’s new location to not only suited for new services like STI testing and ultrasound scanning, but the first of many life-affirming hubs throughout the county.
It’s a hope she’s had for over 15 years.
“God planted a seed deep within my soul,” Landry-Masseau said, “I need others to pick up this vision and partner with us to bring this vision to reality.”