Writer // Rebecca Wood Photos// JJ Kaplan
Almost a decade ago, Dr. Lori Buzzetti was serving as the Women’s Health Clinic Director at the St. Vincent Primary Care Center. In her role, she tended to pregnant women who were often facing dire situations. Some women were living in cars. Others were tossed out of homes due to their pregnancies. One woman asked her to write a prescription for a shelter, so she could have food to eat. Financial challenges, housing issues, and other hurdles left many of these women questioning whether continuing their pregnancy was the best option.
Buzzetti felt God placing a picture on her heart of a home where these women’s needs could be met. The idea of opening a maternity home took root as she knew the need was great. Every year, 100 pregnant women stay in Indianapolis area shelters (and this figure does not include those living in cars and at friends’ houses).
“I wanted a place where these women could feel loved and supported,” says Buzzetti. “The goal was a place of transformation and where these women could get back on their feet and learn life skills.”
Despite the fact that she works in obstetrics, Buzzetti admits knowing little about maternity homes. Decades ago, these homes were used as a place for ostracized unwed mothers to slip out of society until a baby’s birth. Today, they are making a comeback, but now maternity homes are used more as a place of transformation for pregnant mothers in need.
The process of bringing this vision to reality required patience and perseverance. One of the first orders of business was selecting a name for the ministry. Buzzetti decided on ‘So Big’ ministry because “these plans are so big, only God can do them.”
The biggest challenge was picking a location for the home. Several attractive options fell through. Despite so many doors closing, Buzzetti knew she was meant to build this home. “I didn’t know why God was waiting so long,” Buzzetti admits. “I’m so used to getting things done, but God was doing all these things that we didn’t realize.”
Buzzetti gets emotional when she talks about those years in wait. “He placed it on our hearts that even though it was taking forever, He was laying the foundation for this. He was telling us this is so big, you can’t even imagine what I am going to do with this.”
A year ago, Buzzetti walked into a 100-year-old Whitestown house owned by New Hope Christian Church. The house sits directly south of the church and has a lengthy benevolent history. Prior residents of the home included missionaries on sabbatical and a couple who fostered 350 children over the span of two decades within its walls.
When Buzzetti entered the home, she first noticed a painting displayed in the foyer. It was a picture of Jesus holding a scroll of Isaiah 61. This chapter of the Bible had been on Buzzetti’s heart and mind during the whole house hunting process. Then, she walked upstairs and noticed a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall. It was the same image that was in her bedroom as a child.
Immediately, Buzzetti knew this was the home. She named it the “Mountain House” because God would need to move mountains to open the home.
Placing a maternity home in the Zionsville area may seem like an odd placement to some. “There is a lot of affluence in Zionsville, but that is not true for all of Boone County,” Buzzetti says. “Housing was the number one request in Boone County in 2016. Many people in Zionsville know how fortunate they are, and they want opportunities to help and give back to the surrounding communities.”
The community has pitched in to get the house move-in ready. The home needed to undergo renovations and updates to comply with municipal codes, safety standards and functionality. Many local businesses and individuals donated their services.
Buzzetti admits to being overwhelmed at times with the amount of work required to get the home up to code. When she was told that a sprinkler system needed to be installed in the house, Buzzetti experienced doubts about moving forward.
“I said, ‘God, I don’t know if we will be able to do this,’” confesses Buzzetti.
She decided if this was God’s plan, He would provide. After a day of prayer, she was connected with Ryan Fire Protection. The business owner shared Buzzetti’s passion for the home and installed the sprinkler system for free, saving the ministry thousands of dollars. Buzzetti was overjoyed.
The Mountain House is set to open in late October. The home can accommodate four pregnant women and their young children. Placement for the residence will come from referrals from the St. Vincent Women’s Clinic, Life Centers, the Women’s Care Center and word of mouth.
Women who live in the house can stay for the duration of their pregnancies and up to a year postpartum.
While at the home, the women will have access to spiritual, financial and medical guidance. There will be opportunities to learn life skills, further their education, attend parenting classes and participate in Bible studies. The 18-week transformed curriculum, used by Wheeler Mission, will be taught to the women with the goal to improve personal communication and self-awareness.
Employees will oversee operations 24 hours a day. A staff of volunteers will provide food, shelter and other essentials.
Volunteers and donations are needed to sustain operations. Buzzetti estimates it will cost $200,000 annually to care for the women and children and sustain operations. The So Big website (sobig.org) includes more information on financial donations and tangible needs. Ministry updates and more information can be found on the website.
Board member and Zionsville resident Ashlee Brackett encourages the community to become involved with the Mountain House. “We also want the community to come alongside the women, bring a meal, mentor the women on finances, teach them how to cook, care for their babies and share Jesus with them,” encourages Brackett.
On October 26, an auction and fundraising event will be held at the Cardinal Room in Lebanon. The “Born to Sparkle” gala will be the first fundraising event for the organization. Tickets can be purchased on the website.
Buzzetti has visions of opening more maternity homes around the city and a downtown shelter. “It’s exciting to see how it is all playing out,” Buzzetti exclaims. “It has been worth the wait.”