Preparing Our Fields For Rain
I just want to be able to say YES. YES, we have a room for you, YES we have a grant for you, YES this is all real, YES it's really your turn.
This altruistic desire to say YES to parents & caregivers of all kinds drives me in everything I do. Every decision I make, every partner I bring in, every opportunity I keep my heart and mind open to (even when others might think I'm crazy) is strengthened by this genuine, heartfelt desire to provide you with a sanctuary of hope, trust, safety, rest, and fellowship.
I created (and lead) A Mother's Rest from a place of personal pain, and experience, for both biological and adoptive parents. I get you. Everyone who walks through these doors gets you. Restorative respite and therapeutic fellowship are real through A Mother's Rest.
When I started A Mother's Rest in February of 2017, I had some really grand plans. Actually, they were quite meager in the earliest days, but mushroomed quickly when I realized this need for respite was not only my own. I still have (11) "programs" I am wanting AMR to be actively providing. Yes, I know we've only been at it for 3 1/2 years. Yes, I know these things take time...but do they have to? With a need as great as ours is, "time to market" is of the essence. "NO" really isn't in my vocabulary, but I do let things evolve as they are going to. It has been very interesting to watch things evolve as they have in such a short time. Even the best laid plans in my mind sometimes just don't pan out and I end up down a completely different path. When I know it's the wrong path, or just something I've changed my mind about over time, I go with my instinct. But when it feels RIGHT, I do the same, even when few others can see it or appreciate it.
It was just two years ago today ( 24 Sep 2018) that I was handed the keys to our very first respite inn at the Terrace Guest House in New Market, MD. Donations from generous benefactors and an enthusiastic fundraising campaign in our own disability community made this possible in the span of just 4 months. We purchased this gorgeous home with cash. This 1798 Federal style home was one of New Market's first taverns (in the 1830s). It was also New Market's first antique shop (in the 1940's). Now it is the NATION's first year-round respite inn for parents & caregivers who have loved ones with disabilities, extra needs, and/or chronic illness. It is the perfect launch point for our core theme of "Restoring History, Health, Heart, & Hope".
But that's what this is...a launch point. We opened to our first guests in November 2018, and we've been booked wall to wall ever since. People ask me all the time if I'm surprised by the overwhelming positive response ....NOOOOO, I knew this need existed, I knew it wasn't being filled, and as a mom myself, I knew how things needed to be structured to help (mamas especially) step out of their guilt, anxiety, and stress. We have to be *taught* how to put ourselves on our own to-do lists.
Our GUEST REVIEWS speak volumes about the real impact that AMR retreats can have on your mental and physical health as a full-time caregiver. Our numbers do too. Combined with our Porch Partners and the Terrace Guest House, AMR hosted nearly 800 weary parents & caregivers in one year.
By November 2019, our little 7-room space just wasn't enough. We have 10+ people on the wait list any given weekend. We were still growing our Porch Partner network, but we had no partners in the Southeast region to serve those families. I follow where the doors open (not without some kicking and screaming, but in the end, I do follow). Behind the scenes, and with much moral support from members of our Advisory Council, we found a fabulous, recently renovated historic property, secured philanthropic funding, and moved in...again, in a matter of 4 months' time. Built in 1879 in the mountains of North Georgia, Lawton Place Manor became our 2nd year-round charitable respite inn for caregivers.
We busted our tails to get it ready for an April 3, 2020 grand opening. Creating this sanctuary space visually is more than just paint and furniture. There was still SO much work to be done on the property before I'd feel comfortable opening the doors to our guests. Presentation is everything. Details matter. My reputation as a "space creator" was on the line lol
Then BOOM, here comes COVID. Since 16 March 2020, fear has gripped our nation. Fear in and of itself has further isolated our parents, children and loved ones. It has brought untold strain to many, for some to the breaking point. Many have lost family members, young and old. I have remained resolute, knowing our caregivers' needs were even greater now than ever before. As an essential health care provider, A Mother's Rest remained open in Maryland for those who were comfortable coming out.
For 6 months, I have struggled watching our nation literally burn to the ground. These are trying times for all of us. I have spent a lot of time mired in personal anxiety, despondent at times, worried about the future of our country. This has truly been a year from hell, and not soon to get back to "normal". But one thing that will never change is the increasing need for respite and mental health support of these parents & caregivers.
We have learned a great deal through our experience in Georgia. Many things we diligently tried to avoid before we even went under contract were thrown back at us to deal with anyway, in the midst of this pandemic, with no guests and few donations. But things are finally moving along now; our Cottage is open to guests and our full Manor House retreats should be ready for mid November 2020! In 2021 we should be full swing with long wait lists. With our (7) large guest rooms and en suite baths in Georgia, we can host more couples retreats, potentially serving between 500-700 caregivers annually at that location alone!
Even now, though, with our nation on fire, and in an election year, with uncertainty and fear rampant, and most of our kids still not back in school yet, I am already looking at the right NEXT property to serve more of you. Our core, home-base, flagship campus. One with more rooms in it. One with more acreage for expansion. One that is large enough to truly host private gatherings, conferences, and meetings to supplement operating income. One with multiple buildings, that has living quarters for a resident innkeeper. One with dedicated year-round respite space to launch our "Boots on the Ground" program serving struggling combat veterans and their spouses. One that can be the central office for our Raising Appalachia program. One with enough land to start that therapeutic petting farm I've always dreamed of....for the mamas who need the positive, loving, non-judgmental energy of a baby goat or calf. One that is very close to Afton, VA, my ancestral home, like I planned all along. One that can support ALL of those things....maybe it's not the right time yet, but maybe the time is NOW.
Which takes me back to "I just want to be able to say YES." I can only say yes with support from others. I already work for free. We need ongoing funding for both of our existing inns to keep these retreats free of charge to those who need it. Respite is something special needs families shouldn't have to grovel for. They have enough to deal with. Affordable, frequent respite is our gift to them.
Monthly giving is so easy and Legacy Giving is a meaningful, personal gift. Grants are time-consuming, hard to come by, and extremely competitive, especially now, so individual giving is our best bet. We need staffing support, a Board of Directors which is committed, skilled, well-connected, and not afraid of risk. We have many other critical infrastructure roles to fill as well. We need foundations and benefactors willing to support a major capital campaign.
I am willing to go where the open doors lead.....are you?
Buckle up, y'all. If you're able to spare it, please share it! On to 2021!!!!
With love and GRATITUDE to all who give and serve,
Andrea Faris Roberts
Founder, Executive Director, Head Innkeeper, et al
A Mother's Rest Charitable Respite Foundation