BANGOR, Maine — The Shepherd’s Godparent Home has helped dozens of young women in crisis with their pregnancies for the past decade, but it is now looking to aid women after their children are born.
Barbara Ford, director for the Shepherd’s Godparent Home, unveiled a capital campaign for a new home for young mothers during Sanctity of Life Sunday at Bangor Baptist Church.
Sanctity of Life Sunday was recognized by churches across the country because of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when the United States Supreme Court ruled abortion was legal on Jan. 22, 1973.
Ford said the Shepherd’s Godparent Home was founded in 1992 by Linda Dodge, and opened its doors to women ages 13-17 in 2003. It now serves women ages 13-28.
The home provides pregnant women with free housing and meals, parenting services, educational opportunities, life skills training and much more, said Ford.
“We want to give them everything they need to have a healthy and safe pregnancy,” said Ford.
Ford said she does not disclose the location of the home in order to keep residents safe from abusive partners.
Women are welcome to stay in the godparent home up until they give birth.
“Then they’re out in the community looking for other resources,” said Ford.
She’s hoping to change that with the transition home called Nikki’s Hope.
Nikki’s Hope is named after Nicolle Lugdon, who was one of the victims in a triple homicide in Bangor last year. Lugdon was a resident at the godparent home back in 2010.
“She stayed for almost her entire pregnancy with us,” said Ford. “She got an apartment, but stayed with us right up until the end [of her pregnancy].
“Most of Bangor knows Nikki’s story. [It] was hard coming up as a child and a young woman, but she was very successful in her time at the godparent home,” she said. “She would talk about it being one of the calmest times of her life. She made a lot of personal growth in that time. In honoring her memory this way, I believe a transition home that offers the same level of support may have made a difference for her and other young women so they were able to make better choices and safer choices for themselves.”
Nikki’s Hope will be a transition home for young mothers after they move from the Shepherd’s Godparent Home.
“We’d like to extend the services we’re giving them and give them parenting support,” said Ford. “It’s hard for a young woman on her own to do it on their own. Not many 20 year olds are ready to be a mother. We hope to be able to provide them with that additional support.”
Gabrielle McCann, 21, spoke about her problems as a teenager in her speech at the church. She said she was 16 when she had a falling out with her family and got into drugs and alcohol. She dropped out of high school and got pregnant.
“I was stuck in a situation where I had nowhere to go,” she said.
McCann was homeless, but said homeless shelters weren’t safe for a young, pregnant woman. She turned to the Shepherd’s Godparent Home.
“When I first entered the home, they were cooking cookies,” recalled McCann. “It smelled really sweet. It actually reminded me of my childhood. It touched some sensory in my nostrils to my brain that, you know, that this is like a home. It’s not a facility, it’s not an institute, it’s a home.”
While at the home, McCann was able to earn her GED, get her driver’s license, get a job and reconcile with her family, she said.
The Shepherd Godparent Home “accepted who I was,” said McCann. “It wasn’t that I was a bad person, I just wasn’t given an opportunity to be a good one. It brought me to a lot of places in life that I’m very proud to have been.”
McCann said she got married and straightened her life out. Her 3-year-old daughter, Alora, with whom she was pregnant with at the home, was happily greeting people at Bangor Baptist Church. McCann’s other daughter, Clare, 1, was also with her.
Alora “has been an easy child, I think,” said McCann. “I think it played some part being in the godparent home. It was comforting and a stress-free environment.”
Ford said she’s hoping area businesses and the community will support Nikki’s Hope, as the organization looks for a suitable house.
“It’s called Nikki’s Hope because it would be our hope that other young women will have a safe place to go to when their babies are born,” said Ford.
Young women who are pregnant and in crisis can contact Barbara Ford at 949-CARE.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and would like to talk with an advocate, call 1-866-834-4357, TRS 1-800-787-3224. This free, confidential service is available 24/7 and is accessible from anywhere in Maine.