30 years of Grandma’s House
This year marks 30 years of caring for pregnant and parenting youth. Grandma’s House became a part of J Bar J in 2017, but had a long history helping young mothers. The story of Grandma’s House is intertwined with that of its former Director, Woody Medieros, and our current Program Director, Eliza Wilson.
Woody first became focused on the needs of teen mothers when her own daughter became pregnant at sixteen. She began looking for resources in the community and found that there were not many available to pregnant teens. She also found that there were others teens that needed support, including two who were homeless. “So, it’s kind of my nature, I opened my door and we had two pregnant moms come live with us, one was 14 and one was 17. They had beautiful baby boys during that time,” she told us.
The awareness began to build around the need for services for these youth and a core group of people began reaching out to teen mothers, many of whom were couch surfing. The group decided our community needed a home for these youth so began fundraising and looking for a house. Woody began volunteering at Grandma’s House as soon as it opened.
Reflecting back, Woody said, “It’s been such an honor to be here through all these years. I had the privilege of rocking every baby at Grandma’s House.” At the time of her retirement in 2020, the shelter had served over 270 moms with their babies. “We did not turn anyone away. We learned the most important needs were getting these kids back in school where they could fulfill their education and learning parenting skills so they could become successful parents.”
Eliza Wilson, Director for Runaway and Homeless Youth which includes Grandma’s House, has a long history with both J Bar J and Grandma’s House. Eliza told us about her childhood and youth, “I remember being homeless for the first time at around five years old. Throughout my early adolescence and teenage years, my family struggled with finding housing off and on. The last time that I lived with my family was when we were living in a trailer in the Walmart parking lot, then at a shelter for families.”
Eliza left home at 16 and was soon connected with our Living Options for Teens (LOFT) program at Cascade Youth & Family Center, and found it to be very supportive. “I think it was the first time that an adult had asked me what I would like to do, if I would like to get a GED or if I’d like to go back to school. I chose to go back to school and would end up living at the LOFT for about three years until I finished high school, started college, and moved out on my own.”
About seven months after leaving, Eliza became pregnant. She returned to the LOFT, because they were her family and support. Later in her pregnancy, she moved to Grandma’s House where she found resources specifically for pregnant teens and young mothers, including childbirth education and parenting classes.
She arrived scared and worried about what her future held, what her daughter’s future would be like. “Seeing that other moms are here going through the same thing, and that the staff were there to really guide us and show us love and support, that had a huge impact on my life. Really, for the first time in my life, I saw what power women had when they worked together and supported each other.”
Now Eliza is one of those women as she leads Grandma’s House into the future. Thanks to our donors and supporters we are celebrating thirty years of people coming together to support pregnant teens and young mothers. Together we are helping them build the foundation, learn the skills, and create a support network they will need in their lives beyond Grandma’s House.
We’re rolling out the red carpet, and you are invited! Join Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Oregon for a fabulous night of comedy, libations, and igniting potential. Presented by Cascade Disposal, our 25th annual Comedy For Kids’ Sake is returning to the Tower Theatre November 4th, 2022, and promises to be the best yet!
All proceeds from Bend’s premier red carpet event go towards matching Central Oregon youth with caring adult mentors. Hundreds of kids from Madras to La Pine need someone to stand in their corner. Join us for a spectacular event, become a Defender of Potential, and change a life for the better, forever.
Learn more and get tickets: https://www.bbbsco.org/events/
Ben’s Kindred Connections
Ben has been hosted with Kindred Connections for eight months now, and he is thriving. Ben was adopted internationally two years ago at the age of 14. Ben lived in an orphanage (called a foundation), he lived in a foster home, and then back to the foundation when he was older. Ben has a great disposition full of jokes, inquiring questions, lively conversations and pestering those he loves most. His life has been one of joy, hardship, and unfortunately trauma. Can you imagine moving to a different country, joining a new family, and having all the expectations that school, family and society places when you are just 14 years old? Add in trauma and family disruption from your home country…that is a lot on a young man whose brain isn’t fully developed.
Trauma is a beast, and it will disrupt relationships, emotions, and reactions (to name a few). Ben’s adoptive family were not able to attend to Ben’s needs and a break in the relationship brought Ben and his adoptive Mom to Kindred Connections. Through meetings, and careful consideration KC staff reached out to a wonderful Host Family about hosting Ben for nine months. This Host Family said yes after hearing the need and praying about the opportunity. Host Dad and Host Mom have embraced Ben as a son and they have given Ben the support and encouragement he needed, along with a fresh start. Ben is enjoying the new community he is in, he has a job, he is playing soccer and enjoys attending YoungLife. Ben has asked to stay longer, and Host parents have happily agreed. He will finish High School and graduate with friends.
Recently Ben needed a bike to ride to work, friends houses, and school. He saved up some money but still needed about $150. Kindred Connections put a request out to volunteers, and within an hour had the complete amount. Ben is riding his bike to activities, saving his family time, and now has the freedom and responsibility to get himself to work and school.
The kindness of volunteers never ceases to amaze us. They hear a story and respond to the need. Whether hosting and embracing a hurting teen, or donating money to help fund a need, kind KC volunteers just give and give.
We thank these volunteers from the bottom of our hearts!
It’s generally accepted that creative expression can make a powerful contribution to the healing process. Because visual art is non-verbal, it has the added benefit of allowing youth to express experiences and memories that may be difficult to put into words. The benefits of art are many, including exploration, expression, release, and the healing.
The Academy at Sisters art teacher, Jayde Loya, told us a little about this year’s art curriculum: “Art is designed to provide students with the foundations of artistic expression. Students are taught how to create original works of art, manipulate design elements and principles of art, and express themselves creatively. We also incorporate the History of Art and many different elements of Art to offer a captivating, informative and immersive course.” Projects include painting, sculpture, drawing, textile projects, and 3D design.