The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

July 20, 2013

Ashtabula's Beatitude House celebrates first birthday

ASHTABULA — A year ago, Elizabeth Burkhart was a single mother of three young children, who needed housing, counseling and an opportunity to further her education.

So when she first heard about the Beatitude House opening in Ashtabula, she couldn’t believe such a place or program existed, she said.

“If this program didn’t exist I wouldn’t have had anywhere to go; I would have had to go back to my bad situation,” Burkhart said. “I was the first resident to move into the new Beatitude House and as more girls moved in ... I realized how lucky my family was to be receiving these services.”

Burkhart spoke Friday afternoon to a crowd of about 75 people who gathered at Beatitude House to share cake and punch and celebrate Beatitude House’s one-year anniversary.

It’s been one year since volunteers renovated the former St. Joseph Elementary School, 3404 Lake Ave., into 10 apartments for homeless mothers and their children.

Throughout the past year, Beatitude House has served 20 women and 26 children. Four residents obtained their driver’s licenses and vehicles, 12 women participated in education programs, with two at Kent State University at Ashtabula and three getting their State Tested Nursing Assistant licenses, and six found employment. Ninety percent of families that exited the program moved to permanent housing.

While in the program, Burkhart achieved her STNA license, graduated parenting classes and got her G.E.D.

She called the staff at Beatitude House her “second family.”

“My favorite memory is when my son said, ‘Mommy thanks for moving us here; this place is awesome. I have my own room and you do so much more with me now,’” Burkhart said. “I love you. My children have never been happier.”

In addition to celebrating the achievements of the families, the community had the opportunity to meet the new executive director, Sister Janet Gardner.

“It is great to see women changing their lives,” she said. “Residents work hard to get their lives together for their children.”

Gardner also said the transition of the building from a school to a residential complex is symbolic.

“This building is a perfect example of transition,” she said.

Gardner said the women come to the house with little or nothing and leave with whatever they need to set up a home.

Prior to coming to Beatitude House, Gardner served as general minister for the Sisters of St. Francis of the Providence of God where she oversaw and coordinated ministries in 22 locations.

Sarah Masek, housing and site director, said the one-year anniversary was made possible by the support of the community.

“They made the dream a reality,” she said.

Burkhart said the program changed her life.

“I’ve never felt more capable of achieving the impossible and it’s because of the Beatitude House,” she said. “With the Beatitude House, anything is possible.”

Beatitude House has served women and children in Youngstown for a number of years, but with the Ashtabula branch, called the House of Blessing, it is now reaching out to Ashtabula.

By creating homes, providing educational opportunities and fostering healthy families, it provides women and children with the opportunity to transform their lives. For more information, go to www.beatitudehouse. com or call 330-744-3147.

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