The development of Fontebella Maternity Home began in 2002 through the inspiration and commitment of Susan Hoff, who was led to develop a maternity home. She was informed of an unmarried young woman who became pregnant and wanted to continue her pregnancy. This pregnant individual encountered the difficulties that many single, pregnant women, over the age of eighteen, face in our society. Her boyfriend left her and her father said she could move in with him, but she had to get an abortion. She chose to deliver her child. This is what spearheaded the development of a core group of volunteers who were interested in establishing services for homeless pregnant women, who were lacking in many life skills, as well as a positive support system.
To research the need, statistics were obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health for the years 2000-2009. These statistics showed that the highest number of pregnancies was among women 18-24 years of age. The statistics furthered showed, that during this time frame, the number of unmarried pregnancies ranged from 31, 129 to 35,997. The abortion rate for this age group, in a given year, ranged from 15,753 to 18,191. The volunteers also researched what services were already available, and the needs of this population. Other maternity homes were found in Missouri and Mt. Vernon, Illinois. None of the shelters served the Metro East, due to funding and governmental restrictions. The volunteers met with the staff of both shelters to obtain valuable information on setting up a shelter for pregnant women and identifying the issues facing their residents. The issues identified by the staff that had to be addressed were homelessness, abandonment, limited job and life skills, and a lack of education.
All of the shelters encouraged the development of Fontebella as they received referrals, but could not serve the women from this geographic area. With these major needs, limited skills, and resources, it is imperative to have services available for women who want to preserve the life of their unborn child, but do not have the means to do so.
Susan settled on the name Fontebella in 2004 during a trip to Italy with a group of people from their church and their pastor. The interpretation of Fontebella means “beautiful source of life”. Fontebella was incorporated as a 501(c) 3 agency on February 27th, 2009. After obtaining a facility, complying with all zoning and other requirements, the first resident was admitted into the facility in April 2010. Currently, the shelter capacity at any given time is five women. Monitoring is provided 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
My Vision for Fontebella
Fontebella Maternity Home was developed as a result of the journey of Susan Hoff and the support of her parents. Susan became pregnant at the age of 17 at the end of her senior year in high school. When she and her baby’s father announced the pregnancy and Bill told Susan’s parents he wanted to get married, Susan’s parents were very supportive of their decision. Without their support, who knows what would have happened. Alvin and Wilhelmine went into full gear to prepare a nice wedding and 6 weeks later, Susan and Bill had a wedding as nice as her siblings.
All through the struggles of a new marriage and a young couple, her mom and dad, as well as Susan’s siblings, were by her side showing their support in every way possible.
In 2002, Susan and her current husband Bob both attended a Cursillo weekend in Quincy, Illinois. It was then that Susan experienced the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. After that weekend, Susan searched for a way to share God’s unconditional love with others. She was inspired by the unconditional love she had been shown by her parents and family throughout her years of growing up and the unconditional love she experienced from Jesus Christ.
Over a period of years, Jesus led her through experiences and prayers that brought her to a realization that not all women who experience an unplanned pregnancy have the love and support she was blessed to receive from her family.
In a loving tribute to her mom and dad’s unconditional love – Fontebella was established as an avenue to show that same unconditional love to others.
Susan and Bob’s vision for Fontebella is to provide a loving home environment and provide women with the opportunity to get on their feet financially, spiritually and emotionally. The time these women spend at Fontebella is designed to offer them programs so they can accomplish tasks towards those goals.
It is Susan’s wish that each woman who stays at Fontebella take that time to reflect on where they want to go in life and pursue their dreams. Because life changes don’t happen overnight, Susan would love to see Fontebella expand beyond providing services just during the pregnancy and shortly after the baby’s delivery. Her vision extends beyond that to provide enough time for the women to pursue an education and secure a decent job so they can care for their family.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)