The Highlands is a handsome two-story home with a pink door and blue shutters. The colors are a subtle hint of who lives inside.
During a visit, a teen walked through the kitchen carrying her baby. She and another young mother were residents there, a place that provides housing for teens and young women who are pregnant or have infants.
Until recently, the large home in Tallmadge was limited to just five residents. That meant no more than two mothers, their babies and a pregnant gal could live there at the same time. But because of a zoning change in late April, the limit has been raised to a dozen.
Whether we like or not, young, unmarried girls get pregnant. And rather than expose a baby to a life of despair, some teens are eager to escape families where there is abuse or generational poverty.
“We had a girl from Akron whose parents were homeless. They had been living in abandoned houses for years,” explained Mary Kay Dotterer, director of the Highlands.
Certainly, dirty buildings without heat and electricity aren’t places for newborns — regardless of the age of the mother.
Unlike most other shelters that have a minimum age of 18, the Highlands, which operates on federal funds and local donations, accepts pregnant girls or mothers as young as 14 and as old as 21.
“We teach the mothers how to take care of her baby and herself, where to go if she needs help and develop job skills,” said Dotterer, adding that she prefers that the babies who reside in the home be no older than 1.
While living there, girls must do chores, participate in mandatory independent and parenting classes and either be employed or going to school. To help them, free baby-sitting is provided.
I understand why so many Beacon Journal readers have previously expressed their displeasure with moms who have babies out of wedlock and are forced to use tax money to survive.
Last year when I was writing a story about teen moms, Karen Freeman, director of the Teen Moms program at First Glance Student Center in Kenmore, said she also understood their frustrations.
“People get irate. It’s because they are supporting someone [through their taxes],” Freeman said, then adding that she doesn’t believe that girls intentionally get pregnant just to collect assistance.
“Because, of the cycles and the communities of poverty in which many live, it’s just a given if a girl gets pregnant she will get housing, grocery money and a subsidy check,” said Freeman.
So why help?
“Because we [First Glance] are a faith-based organization and I think we are supposed to love them as Jesus loves us. And God keeps forgiving me and I keep messing up. He’s still standing there. So when these girls mess up, I want to still be standing there.”
The Highlands must do a few things like make the home handicap accessible and add a sprinkler system before it can house additional residents. That should be done by the end of the summer.
To add someone’s name to the waiting list or get more information, call 330-633-9474.
Good news for pet owners
Thanks to another grant, Mobile Meals is able to purchase food for its clients’ pets.
“Our delivery drivers told us a number of clients were paying to feed their pets and not eating properly themselves. And pets are such a comfort and security to so many of our clients,” said Phil Marcin, vice president of development at Mobile Meals in Akron.
• To mix it up a bit, while still keeping with the furry friends theme … I recently heard that a dogs’ paws smells like Frito’s. That’s right — those munchy treats.
Relaying that information to a friend, I waited for a reaction. After 10 minutes, I pretended to be reading and saw him lift Freddie the dog’s paw to his nose.
“Ew, they smell like something, but it’s not corn chips I’ll tell ya that,” he said, laughing.
To get to the truth, I called the Viking Community Animal Hospital in North Canton. Fortunately, it’s a staff with a sense of humor.
“It’s true,” said veterinarian Dr. Angela Gamber. “It’s yeast between the toes. It grows where it is dark and warm. As long as it’s real mild, there is nothing to worry about.”
Laughing, receptionist Kim Irving was quick to add, “Look for the stamp that says ‘Made in Mexico.’ ’’