Aunt Mary's House Working On Next Steps For Norwich Center
Published: May 24th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Aunt Mary's House working on next steps for Norwich center Aunt Mary's House Executive Director Brenda White. (Submitted photo)

CHENANGO COUNTY — Aunt Mary's House (AMH) is taking the next steps to becoming a fully established care center for expecting mothers.

Founded by Improve Norwich Now (INN), the organization strives to provide a safe haven for pregnant and parenting mothers to learn life skills, parenting skills, financial fluency, and reach educational and career goals to help them reach independent living and self-sufficiency.

"Basically Aunt Mary’s House is born out of a desire to actually offer a tangible response to this problem of, I’m pregnant and I don’t know what to do and I think my only pathway is abortion, or have this baby but not really be able to care well for my child," explained INN Co-Founder Jen Westervelt.

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"They need mentoring support, they need parenting skills and support, and this residential location is going to provide them with an opportunity to be single breakers, to be able to change the future for themselves and for their children, and really open up pathways to, as the mission states, to reach their full potential," she continued. "So in the future Aunt Mary’s house will be its own 501(c)3, but for now it’s operating under the umbrella of Improve Norwich Now."

After several years of development, a location in the Norwich area has been secured and Aunt Mary's House is preparing to open their doors. Renovations are expected to begin this summer, with move-in expected by the end of 2022 or early 2023.

AMH Executive Director Brenda White said the home will be a "stable, home-like environment" where three to five women 18 years or older will be able to stay throughout their pregnancy, or while parenting a child until they are 18 months old.

"Each woman and child will have their own bedroom, hopefully their own bathroom, that’s where we’re going. They will be able to stay there throughout their pregnancy, they’ll have that space to themselves. But then they’ll share a kitchen, a dining room," said White. "It will be a family-like environment. There will be a library, a play area, a space for a house mother, and then an office for myself and the case manager. They’ll live there, cook meals together."

There will also be a bungalow on the property for a woman who is pregnant but has chosen adoption.

"[She] will be able to stay at Aunt Mary’s House for up to six months after giving birth in order to help her effectively transition to independent living. AMH will support and assist with the planning for the adoption process," White explained.

In addition to providing a place to stay, AMH will provide access to medical, prenatal, and mental health care; case management; educational services regarding life skills, parenting skills, and financial fluency; and connect them with higher education opportunities.

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"Our goal is we’ll teach them life skills, parenting skills, education. We’ll work with BOCES, Morrisville, local entities in the community to get them all the education they’ll need in the most basic sense as far as cooking, cleaning, childcare with The Place, and then into a higher sense, education," said White. "If they want to become a CNA, a nurse, anything that they’re looking at, we’re going to offer them those opportunities so we can break that cycle of poverty."

Services provided by Aunt Mary's House will be of no cost to residents. White said area organizations and community members have already stepped up to provide funding or offer services.

"We will take care of everything. It’s my job at this point to get all of that set up, to work with all of the programs in the county, childcare, BOCES, Morrisville, DSS. I’ve reached out to several of the area agencies to see what we would be able to do for these women. Our goal is that they will be able to get a job and be able to take care of themselves, and we’ll help them to that point," she said. "We want to empower them so that they can attain their goals for both themselves and their children. To be able to say, I can do this, for me, for my child. We’ve got this."

So far, AMH has had collaborations or discussions with BOCES, SUNY Morrisville, The Place, Guernsey Memorial Library, local high schools, cvFree Church, mental health service providers, public health departments, Workforce Development, and Liberty Resources.

The organization is also welcoming those who would like to volunteer by teaching a specific skill to the residents of Aunt Mary's House.

"We’ve had many community members offer their services, whether it’s gardening, planting, cars, house maintenance, checkbooks, all of those wonderful things," said White. "We’ve had a lot of community members reach out to me already and say, I can help you with these things, I’d be glad to volunteer my time and teach them these things."

Potential volunteers will need to complete a background check, and White said she is currently accepting contact information for those interested. Those who would like to offer volunteer services can contact White at, or by calling Aunt Mary's House at 607-238-3392.

"I’m taking volunteers names and numbers at this point for childcare, house sitting, gardening, house repairs, yard work, we have a couple people that have crocheted blankets and scarves. At this point I’m going to take volunteers in any aspect of raising a family, raising a child," she said. "Any knowledge they can share, I am open to all of it."

In preparation of getting the home up and running, the Board of Directors for Aunt Mary's House are currently focusing on renovations, funding, and training for staff and volunteers.

"What we’re working on is getting the house renovated, continuing for grants, donations, any money that we can use to keep Aunt Mary’s House running for years and years to come," said White. "The other portion of that is training. Volunteers and the staff will be trained in several different aspects: CPR, first aid, crisis intervention, parenting classes, cooking classes, and there are classes that will go for women as well, and then classes that will go for the volunteers and staff."

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Ultimately, Aunt Mary's House will provide the support and resources needed by women in the community, and serve as "a safe haven for building a stronger future."

"What we’re looking to do is make sure when they leave our program, graduate our program, they will be ready to go out into the community and be self sufficient, be independent, and be able to take care of both them and their child," said White. "This house will be filled with compassion, caring, loving, so that they can see that they have all these opportunities in front of them, they just didn’t know it yet. And we’re going to show it to them."

More information about Aunt Mary's House can be found on their Facebook page at