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Mentoring program for girls part of Bernadette's House's mission [Old Town Laurel]

Bernadette's House Interim President Yaphet Bryant, founder Carol Nash and Vice President DeLicia Ballard
Bernadette's House Interim President Yaphet Bryant, founder Carol Nash and Vice President DeLicia Ballard (Courtesy Photo/Mary Schneiau Sullivan)

The women who run a local after-school mentoring program are so committed to providing a “home away from home” for the girls they serve that the idea is the part of the group’s name: Bernadette’s House.

Now, more than five years after its founding, Bernadette’s House has settled into a home that can accommodate its growing nonprofit family. In November, it launched programming at 306 Montgomery St., one of Old Town’s most beautiful and beloved homes.

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“This house has … a true home feel and a space to expand to serve more girls and welcome in the community,” said Yaphet Bryant, the interim president of the Bernadette’s House board.

Bernadette’s House began in 2012 as a lifelong ambition of Laurel resident Carol Nash to provide girls in the community a safe space to learn and grow. It offers an after-school mentoring program, summer camps, field trips, retreats, an annual debutante ball and monthly community teas. Its programs served about 100 girls in 2017, many of them students from Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School and Laurel High School.

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“We try to do a holistic approach,” Bryant said of the group’s work. “This is a place to become enriched. We look at mind, body and soul – the whole girl.”

Nash named her group in honor of Sister Bernadette, a Catholic nun who helped raise her when she was a young girl growing up in New York City. Bernadette’s House initially operated out of the Phelps Center in the 700 block of Montgomery Street and then in space provided by St. Mark’s United Methodist Church off of West Street. But it needed more room to offer its array of programming, and 306 Montgomery St. was the right fit.

The grand home is more than 120 years old. It was purchased around 1894 by Charles H. Stanley, one of Laurel’s earliest mayors and the founder of Citizens National Bank, as a wedding gift for his daughter, Elizabeth Hopkins Stanley Boss. The property remained in the Boss family for many years, and was home to prominent residents Jim and Lucy Boss. More recently, it was purchased by the Gurley family, who run South Laurel’s Tabernacle Church, and from whom Bernadette’s House rents the space.

Bernadette’s House runs entirely on volunteer efforts. Its cornerstone after-school program provides girls with a snack, homework help and rotating daily activities that include arts and crafts, dance and a Bible study. It also pairs each girl with a mentor.

“Girls…need to be with women in a way that is not your typical competivness in middle school or high school,” Bryant said. “It’s very nurturing, a space where everyone is equal, where there is warmth and a space to grow.”

The group is also working to expand its community outreach. It hosts a monthly tea and soon it hopes to offer community yoga. It also has business incubator office space for rent.

DeLicia Ballard, the Bernadette’s House vice president for external affairs, said there are many ways for members of the community to get involved. There is always a need for mentors, plus volunteers to help with programming, provide transportation and serve on the board. Monetary donations are welcome and the group hopes to expand its partnerships with local businesses and organizations. There are openings in the after-school program for girls.

“New girls are quickly brought into the fold,” Ballard said. “It’s like a second family. It really is a home environment.”

For more information about Bernadette’s House, go to bernadetteshouse.org or call 301-490-1999.

“The Laurel Redskins: Civic Engagement Scores a Victory,” a discussion of how determined citizens kept Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke from building a stadium in Laurel in the early 1990s will be held March 1, at 7 p.m., at the Laurel Branch Library. The event will include anti-stadium activists Jeanne Mignon and Tom Dernoga from Citizens Against the Stadium-2. The stadium debate is featured in the Laurel Museum’s new exhibition “We the People” and the discussion is co-hosted by the Laurel Historical Society. Residents who were both for and against the stadium are encouraged to attend and share their stories.

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