(Debbie Dobbins, LGSW; Executive Director, Nellie Burge Community Center) - Since 1904 the Nellie Burge Community Center has been a ministry of the United Methodist Church. Over the years many programs have been provided from the center and programs have changed as the needs of the community have changed; but the Nellie Burge Community Center has always served under-served women and children.
In 2012 Nellie Burge will open a new ministry, Mary Ellen’s Hearth, a transitional housing program for homeless women and their children. In Montgomery alone there are over 600 homeless people and about half of that number is women. Ten percent of the homeless are children. The staff and Board of Directors of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge are determined to decrease the number of homeless women with children in Montgomery. The new ministry is being named after Mary Ellen Bullard. Mary Ellen Bullard lived to serve and held every lay position imaginable within the United Methodist Church from Director of Christian Education at the local level to Executive Committee of the World Methodist Council. One of her greatest passions in Montgomery was the Nellie Burge Community Center. The Board of Directors is proud to honor her legacy by naming the new ministry Mary Ellen’s Hearth.
As the Executive Director of Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge, I receive about a call a week referring a homeless mother with children to us. Most of the calls are from agencies that are working with the mothers but recently I received a call from a homeless woman. She had a small child and was pregnant with another one and had nowhere to live. I told her we would like to help but we were not open yet. This woman, in desperation, said “why won’t someone help me?” That statement breaks my heart, not only for this woman but for all the women living on the streets with their children. I have heard stories from other professionals about women living in their cars while they were pregnant because they had nowhere else to live.
Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge is not a handout. It is transitional housing where women can live for up to two years while they receive training in budgeting, housing, safety, parenting, GED, and life skills so they can live self-sufficiently when they leave the center. They will find jobs, go to school, save their money and learn how to live on their own. We feel we are following the example set by Peter and John in Acts 3: 1-10 when they told the lame man they had no money to give him but instead healed him. When they healed him, they were giving him what he needed to earn his own money. That is what the staff at Mary Ellen’s Hearth will do: empower the mothers with the skills to live independently. Mary Ellen's Hearth offers hope, help and healing to homeless women and children throughout the River Region. We offer hope by providing life skills training. We offer help by providing transitional housing. We offer healing through Christian love and support. The goal of MEH is for the families we serve to leave us within two years – their dignity and self-respect restored – prepared for a life of independence.
Please visit our website at www.nellieburge.org and be sure and click on the video tab to watch our video. Also, if you are on Facebook, please “like” us. You can call me at (334) 264-4108 if you would like to talk about Mary Ellen’s Hearth or would like for me to speak to a group about this new ministry.