The story of how Making Miracles Group Home came to be is a story of love, through the eyes of a child starved for it, a young mother fooled by it, a woman fortified by it, and a house filled with it.
It is the story of how when Debra Harris saw the unsustainable patterns of a welfare system that rewards giving up, she created a new way for women to end their cycle of poverty and move into a new life.
And, it is the story of an organization that needs your help.
Making Miracles is one of nine organizations being recognized with a $2,000 grant by the Beatitude Foundation and #GiveTLH, a community effort underwritten by philanthropist and businessman Rick Kearney.
Growing up in New Orleans, Debra, the oldest of four at just 8 years old, began her time in the foster care system. She and her siblings tell a tale of emotional and physical abuse at the hands of supposed caregivers. Shortly after high school, she was pregnant.
“Now I can see that I was fooled by what I thought was love,” she reflects. “I craved it so much after not feeling love as a child, I went to where I thought someone loved me.”
Soon she was the mother of two, the sole breadwinner for her family, and working hard to make ends meet despite living with a husband who had fallen to addiction and abuse.
“But I would come home and my babies loved me. I was living for them, for their love.”
In time, Debra left her first husband and found true love. She remarried, worked her way through school, had two children, and moved to Tallahassee in 1999, accepting a job at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. “Once I was settled, I wanted to give back,” Debra says.
Inspired by her own childhood and remembering what she needed most, she opened her home to foster care. Soon, three young sisters joined the family, and within a year were legally adopted. “We didn’t expect to do that,” she laughs, “but how could we not?”
But she didn’t stop there. Seeing the cycle of young pregnant women coming to the hospital for care, Debra recalled her own experience of realizing the trap of a welfare system that would reward staying in poverty and withdraw support from those in the process of clawing their way out. “We have a generational dysfunctional cycle,” she says. “I knew I had to break it.”
Debra’s vision to help the young women become self-sufficient led to the collaboration for and purchase of a home large enough to house five women at a time: a house called Making Miracles Group Home. Since March 2010, MMGH has provided shelter to more than 100 women, either pregnant or mothering an infant, for up to a year while they work to become independent.
“I see myself in these women,” Debra says. “I see them trying to improve, and we need to support them.” She beams when referencing success stories highlighted on the organization’s Facebook page. “You can see pictures of the girls holding keys to their own apartments,” she says with the love of a mother. “They made it.”
Now, she needs your support. Mold infestation in the Making Miracles home has forced her to place her residents in temporary housing while new accommodations are found. The organization is under contract for a new home, but relies on donations, volunteers, and community support to make their shoestring budget meet ends.
“We will be able to house up to 10 residents in the new house,” Debra shares. “We’re working hard to make it happen, and you know I won’t give up!” Visit https://www.makingmiraclesgrouphome.org/ to become a monthly supporter with a gift of your choice, and to be linked to the home’s Amazon wish list for household items, cleaning supplies, and more.
And at the core, Debra Harris encourages her residents to love on their babies. “When you hold your baby, kiss them, touch noses, make silly faces… your baby feels that love,” she says. “That’s the start of them knowing that they can make it, too.”
The 2020 #GiveTLH campaign will culminate in November with a chance for Tallahassee readers to vote for their favorite profiled nonprofit. In addition to a micro-grant for each featured organization, the top three vote-getting organizations will receive a $10,000, $5,000 and $2,000 grant from the Beatitude Foundation. The stories will be compiled on give.tallahassee.com.
#GiveTLH, underwritten by the Beatitude Foundation and Rick Kearney, is a look at nine nonprofits in our community and how you can help them in their life-changing work. At the conclusion of this series, Kearney will award grants to the nonprofit that gets the most votes in an online poll. For more profiles, visit give.tallahassee.com.
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