During a regular meeting on Thursday, Jan. 6, District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills had to hold back tears as she thanked the volunteers from Whispering Hope, a nonprofit organization that has been providing pregnant women and new mothers in Forsyth County with educational and medical resources since 1996.
During the meeting, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted to approve a conditional use permit for Whispering Hope to operate a personal care home that will serve up to 10 people on 5.29 acres at 5280 Parks Road which is currently zoned lake residential district, LR.
Beth Hathorn, a board member for Whispering Hope, said the organization has been “saving pregnant women and moms” for over 25 years in the county and has a “reputation of excellence” in the community.
“We are planning to continue that reputation with a maternity home,” Hathorn said.
Hathorn said the goal of the maternity home, which will be called Living Hope, is to care for pregnant women and moms and give them a safe, secure space to uplift their emotional, mental and physical health needs.
According to Whispering Hope’s website, Living Hope will focus on three key aspects: housing, training and support for pregnant women and new moms in Forsyth County.
“One of the biggest needs that we see for moms [coming] to our center is housing that is safe, that is stable, where there’s a loving environment [where] they can prepare for birth, recover from pregnancy and then just get on their feet so that they can be successful moms,” Hathorn said. “We want to help them to do that.”
Training will include “pregnancy and parenting education, Bible study, training in life skills and other educational opportunities [that] will equip moms for immediate and future success.”
Support will encompass serving “the whole person — physically, emotionally and spiritually.”
Whispering Hope’s site explains that the nonprofit will “meet the unique needs of each individual” and that staff, mentors and house parents will “work with moms to set goals and create plans for achieving them” through weekly meetings that will “chart progress, provide encouragement and celebrate victories.”
Hathorn said those goals were the inspiration for the name of the facility, Living Hope, because “that’s what we’re wanting to give these women; hope.”
She said the nonprofit has a “strong donor base” in the community that has donated funds to purchase the home and maintain the property to keep the “standard of excellence” and provide women with a place of rest, relaxation, strength and stability.
Keely Darnell, a nurse practitioner with Whispering Hope, spoke in favor of the conditional use permit and referenced some of her personal experiences working with the nonprofit.
“I see so many moms who are pregnant and don’t have safe housing,” Darnell said. “And when you don’t have safe housing, you often don’t have reliable medical care.”
Darnell stressed the importance of physical health along with emotional and mental health, explaining that all facets of health were important in the grand scheme of wellness.
Other Whispering Hope employees and volunteers spoke in favor of the project, and Wendy Patrochko, who will be the housing manager for the new facility, said she wanted to remind everyone about “what could have happened a few years ago if there was a maternity home in Forsyth County.”
In June of 2019, “a … newborn girl was discovered abandoned along an isolated stretch of roadway in southeast Forsyth [County].”
The child, named ‘Baby India,’ made national news, and her mother or other biological parent was never found.
“Instead of having that baby left in the woods, that baby could have been born in a home,” Petrochko said.
Mills expressed her appreciation for Whispering Hope and its employees and volunteers.
“I think [the maternity home is] a fabulous idea,” Mills said. “We should be trying to support people in need. I mean, I think it’s a fabulous thing, and I appreciate all of y’all that volunteer.”
District 2 Commissioner Alfred John and District 1 Commissioner Molly Cooper voiced their approval for the project, and commissioners voted to approve the conditional use permit with a unanimous vote, 5-0.
To find out more on Whispering Hope, click here.