VAIL STEWART RUMLEY | DAILY NEWS ONE STEP CLOSER: Executive Director Loretta Ebison cuts the ribbon to the new office of Higher Heights Human Services on Highland Drive. The office represents the first step in building a maternity home for pregnant and parenting teens in Beaufort County. From left to right are Higher Heights Chair Joy Smallwood, Michael Ebison, Loretta Ebison and Higher Heights Board Member Alida Sawyer.
VAIL STEWART RUMLEY | DAILY NEWS
ONE STEP CLOSER: Executive Director Loretta Ebison cuts the ribbon to the new office of Higher Heights Human Services on Highland Drive. The office represents the first step in building a maternity home for pregnant and parenting teens in Beaufort County. From left to right are Higher Heights Chair Joy Smallwood, Michael Ebison, Loretta Ebison and Higher Heights Board Member Alida Sawyer.

Archived Story

Keep on reaching: Higher Heights gains ground with new office

Published 8:55pm Thursday, January 23, 2014

 

Members of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce, board members and many supporters braved chilly temps and the remnants of snow to turn out for the official ribbon cutting of Higher Height Human Services — and a teen maternity home in the making.

“It represents a community coming together,” said Loretta Ebison, executive director of Higher Heights. “It represents what we have in Beaufort County: strong friendships and people who take of each other.”

The chamber ribbon cutting was the culmination of step one: setting up a home base for the organization offering pregnant and parenting teens guidance, resources and services that will help them be both a parent and a student at the same time.

The county agreed to lease an unused piece of property on Highland Drive to Higher Heights for $1 a year, but the two homes included with the rent needed a lot of work and even more money to get that work done.

Ebison, the Higher Heights board and many volunteers tackled the smaller building first, transforming it from an abandoned home to a friendly office space, a back room already stacked with children’s toys. A $12,500 grant from the Jonathan Havens Charitable Trust and nearly $10,000 raised by Ebison’s own testimony at area churches, was enough to get project started. Office space has been achieved. Filling it comes next.

“Right now, our biggest need is furniture and computers for the office,” Ebison told the gathered crowd.

The end goal is to establish a residential maternity home using the property’s big house: a place where young mothers can get one-on-one mentoring/life-coaching assistance to build their skillset, as well as child care so that they can continue school and/or work a part-time job, according to Ebison.

The closest residential maternity home for adolescents is in Charlotte, but with Beaufort County’s teen pregnancy rates consistently ranking in the top 25 of North Carolina counties — as high as No. 12, as low as No. 42 in the past decade — the numbers support the existence of one in eastern North Carolina. Higher Heights serves an average of 40 to 50 teen mothers per year, according to Ebison.

Standing in the way of the maternity home are mold issues, nonworking HVAC, roof problems and a substantial investment. But many have stepped up to help.

“I know nothing about babies,” laughed Higher Heights’ board member Reid Brody. “But I know a whole lot about construction. … If you’re willing to help people and you’ve got talents, let others know you’ve got the time and talents.”

With the help of Beaufort County Schools grant writer Michele Oros and Higher Heights board member Alida Sawyer, Ebison is working on finding the funding for the maternity home.

After the brief ribbon-cutting ceremony and acknowledgment of the many supporters who had helped Higher Heights get up and running, those in attendance were offered a tour of the soon-to-be maternity home.

“We hope this time next year we’ll be cutting the ribbon in front of the big house,” Ebison said.

For more information about Higher Heights or to learn how to help visit www.higherheightshs.org or call Loretta Ebison at 252-945-3089.

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