St. Benedict's assumes crisis pregnancy home

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Kelly Cunningham, house mother, sets up a bassinet on Monday inside the St. Gerard Life Home on West Seventh Street.

For the past few months, change has been synonymous with St. Benedict's Homeless Shelter.

In August, the nonprofit, which served men only, announced it would expand and develop a new day shelter at the corner of Ninth Street and Hickman Avenue -- St. Benedict's Women & Family Services. The nonprofit's officials hope the facility opens later this month.

On Nov. 1, St. Benedict's men's shelter on West Seventh Street became a 24/7 facility, allowing clients to sleep during the day if they work third-shift jobs.

And on Monday, St. Benedict's announced it recently assumed operation of St. Gerard Life Home, a facility that provides free shelter and services to women ages 18 and older who are dealing with a crisis pregnancy.

"All of these changes are a byproduct of our support, the nurturing staff we have and our board," said Harry Pedigo, executive director of St. Benedict's. "If we see a need, we try to do something about it."

St. Gerard is a ministry of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Owensboro. St. Benedict's is its own entity, but it falls under the diocese's umbrella.

Catholic Charities and St. Benedict's entered into an agreement for Pedigo to run the crisis pregnancy home. St. Benedict's took over those operations a few weeks ago.

Catholic Charities will continue to financially support St. Gerard Life Home. However, to provide the same services and programs available at St. Benedict's, Pedigo estimates it will add about $10,000 to the nonprofit's annual budget.

Sister Consolata Ojemeh, the former house mother at St. Gerard, announced her retirement earlier this year, said Susan Montalvo-Gesser, director of Catholic Charities. Ojemeh had served in that capacity since 2014.

The news that Ojemeh was leaving sent Montalvo-Gesser into a panic. It was hard enough to find people to share her job on a temporary basis when Ojemeh took vacations -- let alone replace her permanently.

Montalvo-Gesser called Pedigo to lament and discuss the situation. During their conversation, he asked to partner with Catholic Charities to keep St. Gerard open.

"It was a God thing," Montalvo-Gesser said. "It was like everything came together at one time."

With St. Benedict's resources, clients at St. Gerard will receive even better services than before, she said.

Pedigo shifted some staff positions at St. Benedict's to provide a house mother at St. Gerard. In February, he hopes to name a new director of services for the facility.

"You pull together as a community," Pedigo said about partnering with Catholic Charities. "I saw an opportunity to jump in and help."

Besides, St. Gerard should be a natural fit for St. Benedict's soon-to-open Women & Families Services unit, which will provide life-skills training, specialized case management and other services. Partnering equals good stewardship, Pedigo and Montalvo-Gesser said.

St. Gerard opened in 2009 in an older two-story home near St. Stephen Cathedral. Birthright of Owensboro is located on the home's ground floor.

The home can serve up to six women at a time. Clients come from Daviess County, the state and the nation.

Currently, the program allows women to stay up to three months after they give birth.

"We are revising some policies," Pedigo said. "We plan to extend that to six months after the birth of their child."

He feels an extra three months will provide more stability before women transition into life on their own.

"None of this would be possible without the community and our supporters," Pedigo said.

With the addition of the Women & Families unit and St. Gerard Life Home, he expects St. Benedict's expenses to go up in the future. That puts more pressure on St. Benedict's annual bed sponsorship program to do well. It is the nonprofit's biggest fundraiser of the year, and it provides crucial day-to-day operational revenue.

St. Benedict's has earned some grants recently, but grants are earmarked for special projects. The ongoing need continues to be funds for meeting basic needs, such as rent, utilities and salaries.

The nonprofit estimates it costs $500 to sponsor a bed for a year. Donations can be made online at www.stbenedictsowensboro.org.

"We keep meeting needs," Pedigo said. "If you entrust us with your time, talent, support and prayers, we'll make a difference."

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com.

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