By Cynthia A. Lovely
In recent events throughout New York State, there has been an outpouring of strong emotions regarding the new laws involving the abortion issue. Long before the passing of the current bills, Linda Arzu, of Fishkill, NY, has been busy working towards a positive influence in her own community. Since 2011, she had a burden and vision for opening a Christian maternity home for “single, pregnant women who need a safe place to live.”
Arzu understands some of the problems from her own prior experience as a single mother. Years later, after becoming a Christian, she contemplated the hardships of her previous situation and tried to imagine how much more complex it would be for an 18 or 19 year old without a decent education or job. “It’s not enough to tell women abortion is wrong,” she said. “They have real concrete needs that drive them to make a decision to abort that they may not really want to make but feel pressured by the lack of support or their life circumstances.”
Determined to make a difference, Arzu spent much time in prayer and attended a “life changing event” in 2014 at a National Christian Housing Conference. With a solid background of intense research on residential services for pregnant women, she realized the network of maternity homes existed across the country and there was a genuine need for a home in her local area of the mid-Hudson valley.
After the conference she worked towards incorporation, began searching for a house that would meet their needs, and eventually left her full time job as a lawyer to focus on “Faith House,” a new maternity center. Once news got out, she started to receive calls and has been contacted by over 50 pregnant women facing homelessness, which proves the great need for such a facility in this area.
Arzu’s resume reflects the perfect fit for this project. She is an attorney with “30 years in special education, disability, elder and family law.” She founded and operated a small law firm and has 13 years of experience in non-profit management. After many roadblocks and adverse circumstances, the perfect house was found in Walden, NY and purchased in December of 2018.
The 5000 square foot home is located on one acre of private property with plenty of space for live in staff. There are extra rooms for counseling, office and storage space. Four single, pregnant women (with no other children) will be able to be accommodated at one time. They may stay up to one year following the birth of their child. The vision of Faith House is to offer housing, “in a loving, accepting Christian family environment with live-in houseparents, including group Bible study, prayer and spiritual counseling.” Faith House will also offer practical assistance with completing education, obtaining employment and life skills training in areas of parenting, money management, and healthy relationships.
Fundraising efforts have been an important factor and many previous events have helped cover the purchase price of Faith House. In October 2017, a benefit concert was held with Divine Pursuit and Mercy Shore; $10,000 was received from the Karpus Family Foundation. In 2018 the J.M. McDonald Foundation donated $10,000 and a Capital Campaign in June raised $42,000. A banquet held in September 2018 raised $34,000. Funds are still needed for renovations and operating expenses.
Arzu is pleased with the growth of a capable, skilled volunteer team. Jennifer Karon is the office manager and keeps things running smoothly with their website, data entry, emails, phone calls, graphic design, fundraising and all those things listed under “other duties as required!” Karen Bakun is the Volunteer Coordinator and Rosann Miloscia is the Prayer Coordinator. Katie Lukianoff is the Materials Donations Coordinator.
Community volunteers have also been supportive and helpful. Recently, 12th grade students from Harmony Christian School of Middletown took on Faith House as part of their “Serve-A-Thon” project. “They were a tremendous help to us,” said Arzu. “They decluttered, rearranged furniture, cleaned the whole house, dismantled a fence, put beds together, and even helped with clerical duties. One of the best parts of the day was when the students blessed future residents with prayers and scriptures written lightly on the bedroom walls.”
Excitement is building at Faith House as the renovations continue. There is still much to be done before the opening. Arzu said, “We are busy with all of the renovations and prep work and hope to open in late Fall or the beginning of 2020. We were able to raise money for the house purchase; we held 3 banquets between 2016 and 2018 raising a total of $108,000. We receive no government funding. All of our funding comes from individuals, churches and businesses. Our greatest need at this time is for monthly donors.” There is a place for everyone to be involved in some aspect of Faith House.