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VIENNA Pregnant teens get hope at New Life



Published: Thu, November 22, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



New Life is the only maternity home in a 50-mile radius, serving mostly teen-age girls.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

VIENNA -- At 15, Nicole Pegg thought there was no way out. At 18, she says there's only one way.

And how she spent the years in between made all the difference.

It wasn't until she sought out New Life Maternity Home, 3653 Warren-Sharon Road, that she found the solution to all her problems -- God.

"I had nowhere to go; no one wanted me," she said. "God led the way."

The residential home uses Christian principles to serve unwed girls and women, especially teen-agers, who need assistance with their pregnancies.

Pegg was a rebellious teen-ager when she entered the program, making bad decisions and getting into trouble.

She had no relationship with her parents, who divorced when she was 11, and many of her young friends were on the streets or getting pregnant.

Pegg, who grew up in Warren, wasn't far behind.

She sought out New Life on the advice of a friend and stayed through her pregnancy.

"Everything about it was perfect," she said. "I walked in the door and I totally felt loved."

New Life is the only maternity home in a 50-mile radius and currently serves three girls, one from Newton Falls and two from Stark County.

Home director: Norma Holtom was named director in 1998 and served as a house parent for four years prior. Before that, she was director of Alliance Pregnancy Center.

Holtom said the home can accommodate nine residents, who must leave when they give birth because it's not licensed to care for babies.

After leaving the hospital, Holtom said, some girls are taken in and cared for by the Hawley family of Vienna.

Each female has her own room at New Life, remodeled about three years ago, and shares a bathroom in the dorm wing. The building also includes a living room, chapel, classrooms, a two-bedroom apartment for house parents, an area for exercise, a kitchen and laundry room.

Schooling: Residents attend school in the building and leave the home with staff to attend church on Sundays.

Teacher Hazel Partington of Windsor said she sometimes serves residents in different grade levels, all at one time.

"They usually become very good students," Holtom added.

Post-birth options: Residents also have access to a nurse, and classes that help with parenting and outline post-birth choices such as adoption.

Most residents choose to keep their babies, Holtom said, and roughly 2 percent opt for adoption, which is reflective of the national average.

"I wish we had more adoptions," she said. "When anyone tries to raise a child as a single parent, the child is always at a disadvantage, regardless of social strata, education or anything else."

Almost all of the girls and women served by New Life have come from dysfunctional family situations, the director said.

Fathers of the babies are allowed to visit, but most cut off their relationships with the girls when they find out about the pregnancy, Holtom said, adding, "They usually get dumped while they're in here."

A licensed counselor is made available to help deal with such situations, and a couple serve as house parents and live in a two-bedroom apartment in the building.

Staff and residents eat meals together and chores are part of the stay. Doing dishes is considered a discipline to show the girls there are consequences.

Violence is not tolerated and is a sure way to get kicked out of the home, Holtom said.

"We don't have a lot of bad behavior here," she said. "There's a feeling of calmness and respect and they respond to that."

She added that "all we really do for the girls is offer them hope."

Pegg said the boy who got her pregnant is now in jail and has nothing to do with his daughter, Janelle, who turns 2 on Christmas.

Moving on: After giving birth to her daughter, Pegg moved to New Beginnings, a 24-month residential program for single mothers in Middletown, Pa., just outside Harrisburg.

She's doing well now, says she got her act together and is proud to be an upstanding and contributing member of society.

While there, she took classes and got help finding a job, an apartment and a car.

Janelle is in day care and Pegg works in the meat department at a grocery store. She recently gave up a second job at a diner because of the drain on her time.

Except for the occasional get-together with friends, Pegg tends to her daughter and their home.

"I'm a mom now and everything that goes along with it -- dishes, laundry..."

And trying to help others who seem to be traveling the same path is the right thing to do, Pegg said, adding that there's so much to be thankful for these days, including New Life Maternity Home.

"I love them so much there," she said. "They opened their arms to me and loved me like my family never did."

davis@vindy.com




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