Carissa Martin cries frequently when speaking of the “miracles of the Monarch’s Way”.
Her 20+ year vision of helping girls struggling with life challenges is about to come to fruition in the huge red brick house with tall white pillars in the village of Kauffman.
The house has been converted into a private Christian boarding school and is scheduled to open this fall.
Local residents can take a peek inside and learn how they can help during an open house and fundraiser on Sunday, June 6.
‘Let’s give it wings’
The application process for Monarch’s Way begins in June and the initial enrollment will be eight girls aged 11 to 17. The house can accommodate up to 16 girls.
Monarch’s Way is for girls who face issues that bother them in their daily lives, such as eating disorders, self-harm, sexual abuse, suicidal thoughts, depression, drug addiction and alcoholism, anxiety, depression and unplanned pregnancies.
“Children matter. It’s tragic to watch our teens suffer, ”said Martin, who is trained in education and counseling.
“Let’s help them to heal. Let’s help them to dream. Together, let’s give their wings!” Martin writes on the Monarch’s Way website.
“Our program promises to provide the opportunity to transform injured teens into people who know their identity, believe in their purpose and dream big of their destiny,” says the Monarch Way website.
The main elements of the program are:
- Academic success: Small classes and individual attention to develop a love of learning.
- Core Cultural Disciplines: Life skills including, but not limited to, responsibility, etiquette, character, finances, health, fitness, surrender, assignments, and recreation.
- Counseling and Coaching: The Choices That Bring Change counseling model combines biblical principles of healing and unconditional love with clinical interventions.
- Home environment: Stay-at-home parents, a married couple, live at home and create healthy family relationships while integrating Christian virtues into all aspects of daily life.
- Family Coaching and Aftercare: Support to help parents help their daughters through communication, connection and understanding includes family meeting weekends, coaching, counseling, and resources.
Money and miracles
Monarch’s Way will open debt-free, including the July 2019 purchase price of nearly $ 320,000 and renovations pushing the total to over half a million dollars.
That’s a long way from when the first offer on the house was made with just $ 14,000 in the department’s bank account, recalled Martin, who is president of the nonprofit. She estimates that over 400 donors have helped along the way.
The first fundraiser in March 2019 brought in $ 82,000.
“We didn’t have a property… we started a concept,” Martin said.
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The second annual fundraiser, slated for late March 2020, turned into an online auction after the success of COVID-19. The pandemic initially slowed progress, but the money kept coming in.
When the website said $ 120,000 was needed to complete the renovations, a couple rallied to match the donations.
“We raised $ 122,000. It was magnificent, ”said Martin. “I feel like God has been so faithful. COVID has affected us, but God has provided through generous people.”
Talking about checks that come in the mail even without active fundraising makes Martin cry.
“People are thrilled that they can help girls and their families in this way,” she said.
The tangible help is evident throughout the house and Martin said, “I have to decide which miracle I don’t want to talk about so that we can have a tour.”
She heard things like:
“Do you need tiles?”
“Does Monarch’s Way need a big screen TV?”
“I’ll pay for this van.”
“Do you need fitness equipment?”
“I prayed to cross you … I know it’s frivolous, but I want to make a pond and a fish pond.”
There are people showing up every week to mow the grass, and the basement shelves are chock-full of cleaning supplies and paper products collected by Grand Point Church in Chambersburg.
“It’s just awesome. You can’t deny that God is at work on this project,” Martin said.
Martin knew that the house at 7465 Angle Road in Township Antrim between Greencastle and Chambersburg was perfect for Monarch’s Way.
“When Mr. (Raymond) Wishard, the gentleman who built the house was living, we had many conversations about what I thought would happen in his beautiful house after he no longer lived there,” recalls Martin.
The property sat vacant for years after Wishard’s death and was in need of extensive renovations.
“A lot has been done by the volunteers using their talents,” said Martin.
A design student, unable to do an internship due to COVID-19, designed the chapel in what had been the garage. His family has a foundation which provided and paid for the sofas, chairs, tables and other furniture.
“We call this our connection room,” said Martin, who explained that garage doors can be opened to create interior-exterior space.
Right next door, the old covered passage houses long tables in a dining room that embodies the importance of family meals. Martin envisions events like tea or Bible studies for outside groups in this space, allowing girls to practice etiquette and speaking skills.
The girls will learn to cook in the spacious kitchen, grow some of their own food in a garden, and relax in a living room highlighted by a large stone fireplace.
The parents of the house will live in a suite on the first floor and create a family environment. They will be with the girls from 4 p.m. to dinner, evening hours and night until breakfast. Other staff members include a director of education and a director of activities, as well as contracted consulting services.
The second floor has seven bedrooms, some of which will be used by relief staff on weekends; two bathrooms; two libraries; and a wide hallway.
Each bedroom has two single beds. Privacy and storage are provided by movable white racks with rod shelves, spotted by a Monarch’s Way supporter when the Dress Barn in Hagerstown went out of business.
The school day begins with the chapel then the girls go down to the two basement classrooms. The basement renovation is two years ahead of schedule, but not too long ago there was only a concrete floor in one room with a toilet in the corner. Now tables are mounted on the walls in the carpeted space, with laptops and chairs provided in each workspace.
Fitness equipment, also found by a friend from Monarch’s Way, fills a basement room and across the hall is the Creative Arts Room.
‘Born of a vision’
A metal sculpture in the backyard encompasses Martin’s motivation to found Monarch’s Way.
“I wanted something that shows a girl that is fully free and alive,” she says.
Mercersburg artist Craig Schwartz created the whimsical scene of two girls on a tire swing. Called “Born of a Vision: Girls of Monarch’s Way,” Schwartz told Martin it was his first play that “moves under the breath of God.”
A monarch butterfly perches atop the congregation, and in a nod to the red-haired Martin, a girl’s hair is copper.
Open house and fundraising
Those planning to attend the open house and fundraiser, which will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., must register to visit the house by June 1 by calling 717-552- 8795 or at mwopenhouse.eventbrite.com
The afternoon will also include a “donation fair” under a marquee in the front yard. Visitors will be able to see what is still needed for home and school.
In addition to monetary donations, opportunities range from groceries for a day, a week or a month to shovels and wheelbarrows for yard work.
People can also volunteer to share their talents, such as cake baking or jewelry making, with the girls and learn more about events planned at Monarch’s Way.
To learn more, visit the Monarch’s Way website.