Mary’s Embrace offers pregnant teens hope |

Mary’s Embrace offers pregnant teens hope

Shannon Litz / Tribune News ServiceDoug Stewart, director of youth and family ministry for St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Community in Carson City, is pictured with Tracy Muscari and Katharine Shonnard, 3, and Sam Shonnard, 5, at Mary's Embrace last week.

CARSON CITY – Pregnant teens turned out from their homes or in a dangerous environment now have a place to turn for refuge.

The Stewart and Shonnard families are opening the nonprofit Mary’s Embrace in Carson City where girls can stay during the duration of their pregnancies and up to three months after their babies are born.

“I think we’ll save lives,” said Doug Stewart. “That’s the goal of this place. And to give teens a second chance.”

Stewart, youth pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church, is opening the home with his wife, Brittany, along with Tracy Muscari and Keith Shonnard.

Although it will be faith-based, the home will have no direct affiliations with the Catholic or any other churches.

They will serve the population with the highest teen birth rate in the state. In 2007, there were 55 teen births per 1,000 people in Carson City. Statewide, the number was 46. Neighboring counties of Douglas, Lyon and Storey had teen birth rates of 17.4, 40, 42.1, respectively.

The Stewarts will live with the teens in the four-bedroom, two-story home on Long Street with their three children who range in age from 6 months to 5 years old.

“We’re going to make it like a family,” said Doug Stewart. “We think it’s very important they get that environment.”

The girls will have chores to do around the house, in addition to continuing their education, and sit down to a family dinner.

Every Sunday, they will attend church of their choice. Stewart encourages members of different churches to volunteer to pick up the girls from their congregations for the weekly services.

Although times have changed and parents are less likely to shun a pregnant teen, Muscari, a local doctor, said it still happens, often for different reasons.

“When they find out the teen is pregnant, there’s a lot of anger,” she said. “It’s not, ‘You’re pregnant, get out.’ It’s ‘You’re not aborting, get out.'”

Mary’s Embrace, she said, will give the girls more options. It will give girls training in caring for their babies or help them through the process of adoption.

“Forty to 60 percent of girls who abort are pushed to do it by a parent or boyfriend,” Muscari said. “We want to give them a way to choose to give life to the baby without having to worry about eating or continuing to go to school.”

They are busy getting rooms ready for expectant mothers and newborns as well as equipping the home with a security system and cameras. A studio in the back will be available for an unwed mother over the age of 18.

Stewart said they don’t want to duplicate services and plan on working closely with other agencies to provide services.

Kimberly Burchiel, executive director of the Community Pregnancy Center – which provides free pregnancy tests, information, training, education and referrals – said she is eager to work with Mary’s Embrace.

“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It gives them a safe, stable environment with the support they need as well as the medical care they need along with clothing and food.”

Stewart said the community has been supportive of the venture, with Freeman and Williams donating accounting services and Allison McKenzie providing free legal help. He said the home has no place for baby supplies, encouraging people to instead donate new baby clothes and other items to the Community Pregnancy Center.

An open house is scheduled for Oct. 2, but a firm opening date has not been established.

“If a girl came to us today and said she needed a place to stay, we’re open,” Stewart said.

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