“Joseph’s House for Women” a Home for Pregnant Women on Syracuse’s North Side that represents “All things bright and beautiful”


“Joseph’s House for Women” a home for pregnant women on Syracuse’s North Side that represents “All things bright and beautiful”


By Dave Andrusko

From left, Maria Miller, vice president of operations and Kitty Spinelli, executive director, of Joseph's House, pose for a photo in the playroom.  Ellen M. Blalock eblalock@syracuse.com

From left, Maria Miller, vice president of operations and Kitty Spinelli, executive director, of Joseph’s House, pose for a photo in the playroom.
Ellen M. Blalock eblalock@syracuse.com

At the end of January we had a huge response to my post on the movie, “Gimme Shelter” (“Gimme Shelter and the art of battling giants”). As you recall, the unpretentious but inspiring story of this fiercely independent pregnant teen is based on the real-life experiences of girls who came to Several Sources Shelters, a home for unwed pregnant teens founded by Kathy DiFiore.

I thought of that when a friend forwarded me a link to a story that appeared in today’s (Syracuse, New York) Post-Standard newspaper.

The headline for Marnie Eisenstadt’s story was “Grandmothers turn their fight against abortion into a Syracuse home for babies.” Eisenstadt does a wonderful explaining the motivation behind the work of Kitty Spinelli, the executive director of “Joseph’s House,” and Maria Miller, who has done most of the fundraising.

Joseph’s House for Women was created to give pregnant women an alternative to abortion. It opened yesterday for staff.

It “will begin accepting expectant mothers in April,” Eisenstadt writes. “To start, it will take up to eight pregnant women. After they give birth, mothers can stay with their children for up to two years.”

Indeed the first pregnant women will arrive in April (one has a baby due in April, the other in May).

Joseph’s House for Women was Spinelli’s dream,” Eisenstadt explains. “One day, as the Roman Catholic mother and grandmother from Skaneateles prayed outside Planned Parenthood for an end to abortion, the idea came to her. Why not build a place where pregnant mothers in crisis can come, have their babies, and stay to learn how to parent and build a life? She and Maria Miller, also a grandmother, began earnestly fundraising a year ago.”

You can’t help but be uplifted by the grassroots manner in which they raised the money to start the house, the many and varied sources from which they raised a whopping $600,000 in a year.

This enterprise was built on small donations. Eisenstadt cited some examples cited by Spinelli and Miller:

“A family left a piggy bank and baby bottles full of their spare change. Inside, they tucked encouraging notes for the mothers and babies.

“A little girl sent a $5 bill for the babies, with her name scratched on the front of the envelope.

“Families and seniors have signed up to send what they have: $8 and $10 monthly donations.

“A teen-aged girl asked for money for the house instead of birthday presents.”

But like all non-profits women-helping centers, sweat equity was a big component in the establishment of Joseph’s House for Women. Volunteers spent a lot of their own time renovating the house and finding supplies for the moms and their babies.

Eisenstadt writes that the Salvation Army has apartments that house 50 women between 16 and 21 and their children annually. “Other programs in the area could take pregnant homeless women, but Joseph’s House would be the first home designed specifically for them,” she explains.

Generosity made Joseph’s House for Women possible and continuing generosity will be needed to keep it serving the needs of pregnant women.

Eisenstadt ends her story with Spinelli reflecting on the “stream of unexpected generosity”:

“In the middle of a donated computer lab sits a glass piggy bank. It is half-full. Spinelli doesn’t know who it’s from. She just knows it’s from someone who believed in her dream so much that they scraped up what little they could to help.

“She plans to keep the piggy bank in Joseph’s House as a reminder of the everyday miracles that built it.”

Please join those who are following me on Twitter at twitter.com/daveha. Send your comments to daveandrusko@gmail.com.


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