Annunciation Maternity Home expands
By Michele Chan Santos
Brandy Heatley, 20, is expecting; her baby is due June 20.
Heatley, who is from Pflugerville, moved into the Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown on March 11. At first, “I didn’t think it would feel like home,” Heatley said. But the people at Annunciation “become your family … This becomes a home for you.”
Tiffany Rugen, 19, moved into Annunciation on the same day as Heatley. Her child is due on Sept. 21.
“This is a safe place to be,” Rugen said. “We learn a lot about parenting, nutrition and how to care for our babies. There are rules, but they are not difficult rules. It is like living in your own home.”
Rugen and Heatley have both graduated from high school. Rugen is taking online college courses that she will continue after her child is born; Heatley is working and plans to go to college eventually. Their babies will be delivered at St. David’s Georgetown Hospital. A house mother is always on duty at Annunciation and will take the young women to the hospital once they go into labor.
Annunciation Maternity Home in Georgetown offers a new beginning for teenagers and women experiencing a crisis pregnancy. Founded by Deacon Michael and Christie Aaronson in 1999, the home provides a nurturing place for any young woman, age 12 and up, who is pregnant and/or parenting a child. The program is free for all clients. Annunciation provides housing, transportation, prenatal medical care, a licensed, on-site child care center, life skills classes, counseling and much more. The mothers are educated at the University of Texas charter school, an accredited, on-site program, and have access to college and trade school programs as well.
Annunciation Maternity Home is the only nationally accredited maternity home in Texas (and one of the few in the nation). Alyssia Woods, development director at Annunciation, said national accreditation signifies that “Annunciation operates at national standards of best-practice across all of our services.”
Annunciation recently expanded and can now house 29 mothers. They currently serve 26.
In January, Annunciation opened its third residential house, called The Visitation House. The Rita House is for teenage mothers, ages 12 to 17. The Gabriel House (where Rugen and Heatley live) is for mothers ages 18 to 27. The Visitation House provides transitional housing for mothers who have stayed at the Rita or Gabriel Houses and are easing into life on their own.
Typically, young mothers can stay at Annunciation for two years. With the Visitation House, they will be able to stay longer than that, until they are ready for independence, said Christie Aaronson, the executive director at Annunciation.
To qualify for residency in the Visitation House, the mothers must demonstrate they are parenting well, and have a job or are looking for a job as they work toward their educational goals, Aaronson said.
Annunciation Maternity Home is open to women of all faiths and religious backgrounds. Pregnant women who already have children may bring their other children with them.
The campus at Annunciation consists of the residential homes –– very clean, and filled with cribs, playpens, toddler beds and toys –– and a main building, which houses the daycare center, charter high school program and administrative offices. The main building is brightly lit and warmly decorated with many photos of babies.
The Austin Classical Guitar Society comes to Annunciation once a week. Several of the young mothers have learned to play the guitar, taught by volunteers from the guitar society. Each mother writes a lullaby for her child, records the lullaby and can share the song with family and friends.
The mothers will perform some of their songs at the Annunciation Maternity Home Banquet, which is May 7 at St. Helen Parish in Georgetown.
Annunciation supports both parenting and adoption. It is up to each mother to make her own choice. Some of the young women do place their babies for adoption, but the majority opt to parent their children, Aaronson said.
“We are here as a resource for all the parishes in the Diocese of Austin,” Aaronson said. “We’re here mainly to serve the diocese.”
Since its start more than 15 years ago, Annunciation has expanded a great deal in both size and the services it offers. The expansion does not surprise Aaronson.
“I know it is the work of God,” Aaronson said. “It’s all due to his benevolence.”
Financial donations, used vehicles or donation drives for baby items or food are always welcome, and Annunciation also accepts gently used items for the houses or to be sold at one of their twice-monthly garage sales. Volunteers are needed. Visit www.thematernityhome.org/volunteer.html or call (512) 864-7755 for details. To help support the home financially, go to www.thematernityhome.org/support.html.
If you are experiencing a crisis pregnancy and would like to apply to live at Annunciation Maternity Home, call 1-877-71-HAVEN or go to www.thematernityhome.org/services.html.