Ericka Wilson and her daughter, days shy of her eighth birthday, listen to programming during the annual Mother's Day Party May 3 at the Fiat House of Maggie's Place. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Ericka Wilson and her daughter, days shy of her eighth birthday, listen to programming during the annual Mother’s Day Party May 3 at the Fiat House of Maggie’s Place. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

A recent Mother’s Day party organized by Maggie’s Place staff provided a home-like setting where children played while their mothers sought follow-up support.

Mothers gathered for the party and to listen to a motivational talk May 3 in the backyard of the new 4,000-square-foot Fiat House. Meanwhile, their infants shuffled between moms and staff, toddlers explored the play structures and older kids kept themselves occupied with arts and crafts.

A normal business day would look much the same except mothers would conduct their affairs inside one of two meeting rooms for continuing education classes or in the resource room. The area is lined with computers on one side, featuring an online learning library for job and résumé development, and children’s activities on the other side.

Ericka Wilson thinks it will be the right spot to update her résumé as she discerns a career in customer service.

Simply being on site at the Mother’s Day party reminded Wilson of the love and help given to her by Maggie’s Place staff, volunteers and donors, who provide pregnant women a support system. She moved into the organization’s Elizabeth House in Tempe within a week of being released from jail at eight months pregnant.

“The moment I walked in the house of Maggie’s Place, my whole heart changed,” Wilson said.

She came from a place of despair and isolation with few material possessions and entered a loving home where her newborn would have every baby supply she could ever need. Her daughter was born a month later and just turned 8 years old.

Wilson said Maggie’s Place steered her back to faith in God. The staff in the homes and office are devoted to prayer and offer the Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. Wilson’s personal motto is based on Scripture: she can do anything through Christ who strengthens her.

“If I wake up and see a difficult day ahead, I just pray that I make it through and I do,” Wilson said.

[quote_box_right]More on Maggie’s Place:

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  • Drop off donations for current moms[/quote_box_right]She’s one of 600 Maggie’s Place alumnae moms who have been helped by the organization since it opened its doors on Mother’s Day 14 years ago. Not all of them are active, but Laura Magruder, executive director, knows many women return for cordial visits or when in a pinch.

“We provide so many services to the moms when they’re living with us. Unfortunately, once their baby hits that six-month mark, they’re back out there in that cold, cruel world,” Magruder said. “They’ve come to rely on us for emotional support and guidance.”

Magruder said staff is happy to journey with the moms as they grow into confident women. Seven moms graduated from a job training program through Maggie’s Thrift, with one starting as assistant manager. All it took was re-learning her people skills.

The improved space gives staff the resources to create a master calendar of programs for the moms — counseling, motivational talks, legal clinics — and introduce new ones. Now that the first Maggie’s Place babies are teenagers, staff is discerning the need to offer related parenting classes.

The new and modern Fiat House can adequately support such outreach efforts. It still has room for administration, emergency laundry services, a donation closet to outfit growing children and a community kitchen. There are even several private bathrooms scattered throughout the building for mother and child.

Natalie Arkeh, whose middle child was born at Maggie’s Place three years ago, is grateful the organization continues to serve her family when in need. She hopes other mothers find Maggie’s Place so they can change their lives for the better like she did.

Staff taught her about rules, security, stability and structure. She called chores fun.

“It’s such a close family to be able to be a part of for the rest of my life,” she said.