Homeless, pregnant teens find a home at Mother’s Refuge

Mothers Refuge celebrates 30 years of caring for homeless, pregnant teens and babies. (photo courtesy Robert Zornes)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

INDEPENDENCE — Three decades ago, a group of men and women living in Eastern Jackson County were concerned about the increasing numbers of pregnant teenaged girls. Many of them didn’t have a safe place to live. Conversations led to meetings led to the organization of Mother’s Refuge. Churches and members of the local community raised funds and awareness of their concern.

The first home they opened for the young moms was in a rented house that had served as a convent for the Sisters teaching at Nativity of Mary Parish. In 1998, a local bank purchased the former convent, but allowed Mother’s Refuge to stay there rent free.

Five years ago, Mother’s Refuge, home for young moms and their babies, was mostly destroyed in a devastating fire. The staff and board members were shocked and discouraged, and with the moms and babies, joined hands and prayed in front of the still smoldering remains of the home. Executive Director Robert Zornes heard one mom say softly, “Now I have no home again.”

Those six little words served as a catalyst, inspiring staff, board members and community volunteers to work tirelessly to rebuild the house, and rebuild it they did. Larger, more open and with more amenities, the new house opened in 2014.

In his presentation for the 30th anniversary celebration, A Taste of Compassion, held Oct 20 at the Adams Pointe Conference Center in Blue Springs, Zornes spoke to the 325 guests of the services Mother’s Refuge offers its residents.

“At Mother’s Refuge, we educate our residents about various pregnancy and parenting topics such as, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, parenting skills, child development, and prenatal nutrition.”

He continued, “77 percent of Mother’s Refuge residents have had no previous or consistent prenatal care. While living at Mother’s Refuge, our residents are able to receive the medical services they need for themselves and their babies that they may not have received.

“Education is so important. All our residents are either in high school, getting their GED, or in College or Technical school. If they are finished with school, then they can get a job. Mother’s Refuge also provides many hours of educational classes and activities. We celebrate their accomplishments.

“They learn about finances, career building, budgeting, resume writing, job training, and money management.

“Health and Nutrition are a major part of our program. Our residents have classes in nutrition and healthy cooking, and take turns preparing meals. They get regular exercise and education on living a healthy lifestyle for both themselves and their babies.

“Self-Improvement is another pillar of our program. Residents work on weekly and long-term goals. They participate in a variety of classes such as healthy relationships, self-esteem, and art therapy.”

The guest speaker was Ryan Bomberger, an Emmy Award-winning Creative Professional who founded The Radiance Foundation along with his wife Bethany. He is a broadcast media designer, producer, columnist, passionate factivist, international public speaker and author of the book, Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong.

He speaks to thousands of people across the country proclaiming every life matters and has a purpose. He is pro-life, and his purview has a unique perspective. His mother was raped, but decided to carry him to term and give the gift of adoption. He was adopted at 6 weeks of age and grew up in a loving, multi-racial Christian family of 15. Ten of the 13 children in his family were adopted.

Bomberger travels the country helping pregnancy centers raise millions of dollars at fundraising events like Taste of Compassion, to support women and their children (born and unborn). His philosophy is that no child is “unwanted”, just waiting to be loved, and that some of the best things in life are “unplanned.”

He and his wife have four children, two of whom are adopted.

Music was provided by violinist, Dennis Bogart, faculty at North Kansas City School District, and Rev. Ron Steen, Associate Minister from Northland Cathedral, where Zornes and his wife Susan worship. Dr. Josh Baum, a vocalist, sang “The Lord’s Prayer” and the closing song, “Thank You for Giving the Lord.”

When the proceeds from A Taste of Compassion were tallied, $60,000 had been raised to benefit programs and services for teenaged moms and their babies living at Mother’s Refuge.

To learn more about Mother’s Refuge, visit www.mothersrefuge.org.



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November 26, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph