By Shelley Grieshop
Harbor House has been given new life.
Following an announcement in late July that the maternity home in Celina may close due to financial shortages, the agency has received an "encouraging outpouring of support from the community," agency officials said.
"It's getting better," said Bill Rieth, chairman of Harbor House's board of trustees.
Rieth said the agency, which also operates Elizabeth Pregnancy Services, is still in need of a good cash flow but believes God has at least temporarily answered their prayers. Rieth, a pastor who lives in Goshen, Ind., says Harbor House has been able to "catch up on bills."
"We're also pleased to announce there is one girl currently living in-house with the possibility of a full house by the end of August," he said. The 309th baby was born Aug. 12 through services provided by Harbor House Maternity Home and/or its Elizabeth Pregnancy Services.
The board of trustees recently hired the Rev. Bruce Head as the new executive director of Harbor House, replacing Doug Eberle. Head has agreed to begin on a part-time basis and work at first without a salary. His initial duties will be split between training at Harbor House and raising money, Eberle said.
Head brings a wide array of talents to the job including administrative and organization skills and a "compassionate heart and ability to listen," Eberle added.
Eberle, who lives at the maternity home with his wife, Karla, and the couple's children, will return to his former position as operations manager and house father, Rieth said.
"Doug has worn about five hats for some time now and we believe he's been spread too thin. The board felt this is a positive step toward putting talents where they can best be utilized," Rieth said.
During the last year, the board reviewed the operations of other maternity homes across the country and discovered Harbor House was terribly understaffed in comparison. Board members believe that allowing the Eberles to concentrate their efforts as supervisors and counselors for pregnant teens, is the best scenario for the agency.
Negative publicity about Karla Eberle, who was placed on probation in April for Bureau of Workmen's Compensation fraud, likely contributed to a lack of donations, Rieth said for an earlier story. Eberle also was temporarily removed from her position in 2002 after a money mismanagement incident; no criminal charges were filed and the money was immediately returned to the proper account.
After investigation, Rieth and the seven other members of the board of directors voted to return Karla Eberle to the capacity of house mother, where they believe her work is instrumental for young women in troubled pregnancies.
Rieth also noted the summer months are typically a slow time for donations and that maternity homes across the U.S. were reporting the same financial crunch at this time. Following 9/11 and last year's devastating hurricane season, many non-profit agencies that exist mainly through private donations have reported dire financial situations as public funds were directed elsewhere.
Harbor House was founded in 1990 by Karla Eberle as a pro-life, non-denominational Christian outreach ministry. It is one of only a handful of maternity homes in the U.S. that provides housing to pregnant teen girls ages 11-19. The maternity home is licensed by the Ohio Department of Health and allows young clients to make informed decisions about parenting and adoption, while addressing behavior issues.
Elizabeth Pregnancy Services gives support to women of all ages experiencing an untimely or problem pregnancy. EPS offers a variety of free services such as pregnancy tests, counseling, a 24-hour answer line, Web site and chat room, pregnancy education, adoption care, support and referrals.