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Brook Haven House celebrates 10th anniversary

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CARTHAGE — Cassandra K. Cole, 20, and Angel M. Bartell, 22, see Brook Haven House as a blessing.

The nonprofit, 423 State St., has provided the two women, and dozens of others in the past 10 years, with shelter as they have fallen on hard times during a pregnancy.

“I’ve never been in a situation like this, so it was hard at first,” said Miss Bartell, who arrived at the nonprofit three months ago from Onondaga County. “The best is how caring they are, and the support.”

Brook Haven is a faith-based, non-denominational organization that provides a fresh start to women over the age of 18 who are pregnant or who have a baby under the age of 1.

“The main goal was alternative to abortion,” said Joan M. Sherwood, house manager. “So many Christians are quick to point out they’re opposed to an abortion, but don’t offer an alternative.”

Brook Haven is that alternative, she said, and a safe haven for women in which to raise their child that first year. The ministry began in 1993 as Hope Hotline Inc. After expanding the mission, the name was changed in 1997 to Brook Haven House Inc., “a place for new beginnings,” and a maternity home at 423 State St. was opened in 2003.

Miss Cole, who has a 4-month-old boy, said she came to the agency about a month ago, when she experienced family issues. She said that although she is grateful for the guidance and room Brook Haven has provided, she cannot wait to be more stable and out on her own. She is waiting to hear from the Watertown Housing Authority about getting into one of its family complexes.

“This is a place to start being more responsible,” she said. “I want to become a certified nurse assistant, and maybe later a licensed practical nurse.”

Miss Bartell, who is four months pregnant, said she is looking forward to the experience of motherhood and wants to pursue a college degree.

Ruth E. Chapin, board president, said the maternity house’s shoestring budget of about $50,000 helps to pay for house insurance, utilities, a small stipend to the house manager and a relief manager, and for any supplies or goods not covered by donations. Mrs. Sherwood said the agency has been lucky to have the support of multiple community members, businesses and churches, including the donation of many supplies for the women, including diapers and wipes.

Women are asked to pay $250 to $300 per month, and that may be covered by any income they generate from a nearby job or through social service payments.

The house has a studio-style apartment for Mrs. Sherwood and her husband, the Rev. Thomas A. Sherwood. Their quarters are kept separate from the three bedrooms available to residents. Residents’ rooms are fully furnished.

Throughout the two-story former pastor’s house are religious wall hangings and knickknacks, and the photographs and personal items of residents.

Once a week, women are encouraged to attend any church service of their choice. They also are connected with life skills classes through various community agencies.

“We want to help them to be strong enough to survive in their community,” Mrs. Sherwood said.

To help the agency survive, Mrs. Chapin said, there will be a fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Church of the Nazarene, 960 State St. A roast beef buffet will be served at 7 p.m. The event will feature guest speaker and Christian author Elaine Miller. Tickets are $20 each, and available by calling Brook Haven at 493-1735.

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