Eastpointe nonprofit continues to adjust amid COVID concerns

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published August 21, 2020

 Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Sister Theresa Mayrand, of Gianna House in Eastpointe, is still able to help expectant mothers in need by helping provide necessities such as food, diapers and toys.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Sister Theresa Mayrand, of Gianna House in Eastpointe, is still able to help expectant mothers in need by helping provide necessities such as food, diapers and toys.

Photo provided by Sister Theresa Mayrand

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EASTPOINTE — While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are far reaching, one of the often under-considered results is the difficulty that nonprofits have in helping those most in need.

Many, like Gianna House in Eastpointe, are finding ways to carry on despite the difficulties. A nonprofit that provides a home for pregnant teens with nowhere else to go in addition to offering aid programs to pregnant women of all ages, Gianna House had to find new ways to reach its clients as going out into the community and organizing group programs no longer became an option.

“We (normally) have our community outreach program, where we provide support to pregnant women of any age,” said Sister Theresa Mayrand, the organization’s director of community outreach. “Through it, we offer classes four days a week for free. This would be parenting classes, enrichment classes, sewing and yoga classes, but it all had to stop in May. So, for two months we had to put that all on hold. … (Additionally) having fewer volunteers is a challenge, so it has made our scheduling and bookkeeping a lot more difficult.”

By adding new health and security procedures, Mayrand said, they were able to keep offering pregnant teens in need of a place to stay room at their facility — even if some of their assistance programs for the girls had to be postponed or canceled.

“Our residency program has not changed,” she said. “It is ongoing; it’s only that whenever staff or volunteers come in, they have to get their temperature checked and wear a mask and maintain cleanliness procedures.”

Continuing to connect with pregnant women in need throughout the community has continued to be a challenge, however. Slowly, the staff of Gianna House has developed alternative solutions.

“Some of our presenters said they could hold their classes online,” said Mayrand. “So we post links to our moms interested in online education, and when they do take a class, they email me four things they learned in classes. They used to earn ‘baby bucks’ at our in-person classes, which they could use to buy baby-related items in our baby store. Now, for every remote class they take, they can still earn those baby bucks when they email me. They then pick up the items from the store, without having to stick around the center when they don’t need to.”

Mayrand said they found help by teaming up with other organizations who already had a robust online presence, such as Ascension St. John Hospital.

“If you are offering classes, a big challenge is finding online presenters,” she said. “We network a lot with groups like CARE of Southeastern Michigan and Ascension St. John Hospital. So, they are pretty well equipped to teach online, as well as show us how it’s done.”

That partnership has allowed Gianna House to continue to keep in touch and work with its clients as well as offer opportunities for experts to speak and educate the public.

“As a part of our national mission at Ascension, our goal is to serve the most vulnerable populations,” Neefesha Marion, of Ascension Southeast Michigan Community Health, wrote in an email. “We have partnered with community organizations such as Gianna House. It has been a great experience working with Gianna House providing women and families parenting education.”

Mayrand said that the mission of Gianna House is no less important or relevant in the midst of a quarantine. Myleka Collins, one of the expectant mothers who has recently benefited from Gianna House, said the organization has made all the difference to her and her baby.

“I am a single mom to five beautiful children ages two to 12. Gianna House has been a real blessing to moms like myself during COVID-19 by offering classes to help further educate us about parenting,” Collins wrote in an email. “Not only did Gianna House bless us mentally, but they have also helped by blessing us with the necessities that we need for our little ones. I have been blessed with diapers, wipes, pull ups, clothing and toiletries from Gianna House during this pandemic and it has helped me tremendously. Being able to reach out for help at a time like this and receive it was a real blessing.”

COVID-19 has made facilities such as Gianna House even more important due to there being fewer resources available to the general public and many individuals losing their jobs.

“I found Gianna House very soon after COVID hit my community,” Gianna House client Carmen Chandler wrote in an email. “I was newly pregnant and very nervous for resources. I had recently lost my stable job and money has been very tight with the conditions of the world shutdown. I was home, which made it very easy to conduct classes online and to earn diapers and other baby supplies for my son. I’m very happy Gianna House is here to help women and families like me. They are a true blessing.”

Mayrand said that so far, the results of their new techniques have been positive. The staff even recently welcomed a new addition.

“One of our residents that has been staying with us has given birth this week, so we have a new baby boy here with us,” she said. “It’s a sign things are on the right track even if we have more obstacles in the way.”

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