The Formation of Joseph’s House
The first thing you need to know is that God speaks to me in my native tongue which is NAG, so when I don’t listen, there is no peace.
Two years ago, He was calling me to help build something but I didn’t know what. I had worked on the Extreme Makeover build in Geneva, was the director of the Youth program for Habitat for Humanity, and my full time job is a project manager, so suffice to say, I know how to build things. He was urging me to do something and there was NO peace until I acted. I called a local pregnancy crisis center and left my name and number saying God was telling me that we were supposed to build something, I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be but it was supposed to be a model and I never heard another thing.
Last June during adoration I felt God saying to my heart, “save my babies,” so I started to volunteer at Birthright which led me to read the book “unplanned, a story of a director of planned parenthood who was literally prayed out of her job by the 40 Days for Life folks. I went to the Catholic women’s conference in late October and approached the 40 Days for Life table to tell them how inspiring they were and one of the women asked me if I thought there should be a home in Central NY for mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy? She had no idea what she said to me and went on to say, “well I know the woman who owns the land!!”
Unable to breathe, I asked if she could have this woman please call me and into my life came Kitty Spinelli. We talked and were so excited about sharing our experiences. Her story was equally amazing of how she prayed, went to adoration and this mission was placed on her heart on St Joseph’s Day. She had also been called for two years to do this but she had one HUGE concern….”Maria, I don’t know how to build things!”
So the first thing we did was enlist my brother Barry. I said, look, I know you are busy with work, church, charitable and family obligations but do you have time to help us launch a huge not for profit from the ground up? He said, “of course!”
Father Prior from Holy Family was next. He is our spiritual leader and without him, our progress with this mission would not be possible.
Jennifer Johnstone, joined next. Jennifer is our niece and a nursing director at St Joseph’s Hospital. She is incredibly dedicated to this mission and her personal story will be shared on our site soon! Jen handles all communications for the mission and is Secretary of the Board.
Deb Hubbard and Leah Valenti are friends of Kitty’s and both have huge hearts for this mission and its success. Debbie has had this calling on her heart for years , she is the mother of two daughters and grandmother of 5 babies, the most recent born in August. Leah Valenti is originally from NYC, is a mother of four and grandmother of 9. Her deep faith, love of children, family and of Our Lady brought her to this project.
Lisa Hall, Suzanne Davidson and Maria A. Miller (yes, we have the same name) and June O’Brien were next on board! These women have been an answer to our prayers, have rolled up their sleeves and have been a huge help to the mission!
Next we prayerfully wrote and adopted our mission statement, so we would have a concrete vision of what God wanted to create and here it is.
Our mission is to promote the sanctity of life and the dignity of women by providing a nurturing home for mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy. The physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of the mother and her baby are cared for through loving direction of staff members and access to resources including educational, occupational and spiritual in the Catholic tradition, giving them the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential.
We found an organization in downstate NY and NJ called Good Counsel Homes, which has successfully run facilities like Joseph’s House since 1985.
We visited two of their locations and they welcomed us with open arms. One of the homes, in Spring Valley, had 9 women and babies and a waiting list to get in. The women work and live in community. We are impressed by many things, but marveled at how each woman was assessed for her needs and followed a unique plan to transition to independent living for her and her child.
We were also struck with is the generosity and warmth of the staff. They are true lights of Christ in everything they do.
The second home we visited included care for women with substance abuse and mental health issues. During the day, they attend treatment at the hospital that they share the campus with and at night they are with their babies.
Good Counsel has become our mentors and great friends of Joseph’s House. They have shared absolutely everything with us from staffing, budgets, their ‘how to run a home’ handbook, fund-raising suggestions and tips. This is helping us launch Joseph’s House much faster by using their successful model!
I want to leave you with this thought. Rather than be discouraged by negative things around you, roll up your sleeves, keep focused on Christ and work side by side with us. Let your FAITH be bigger than your fear!! Together we are going to build something really beautiful.
God Bless you,