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December 8, 2017

Former homeless pregnant teen opens KC maternity home

By taking classes in Johnson County Community College’s entrepreneurship program, Monsharell “Marsha” Hall has found her way to pay it forward.

She’s opened AngelEyes Maternity Home on Swope Parkway in Kansas City, Missouri, to help pregnant teens lacking family support. It’s been her dream to open a nonprofit that would help young mothers with the basics (food, shelter, utilities) so they could concentrate on their education, vocation and other life goals.

“Yes, it’s a place to live, but I want to provide more than that,” Hall said. “I want to help them feel important and encourage them so they don’t feel alone or ashamed.”

Young, alone and pregnant

More than 25 years ago, Hall herself was 17, homeless and pregnant. At night, in her hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts, she slept in a hospital that was closed for renovation.

During the day, she fixed hair for the neighborhood girls – a few dollars here and there to buy food. She credits a maternity home called House of Hope for getting her out of that situation. Employees and volunteers helped her obtain her GED, medical insurance and affordable housing. They also helped to enroll her in secretarial school and find a job so she could care for her daughter.

“I was very aware that I now had someone else’s life in my hands,” Hall said.

After obtaining her first college degree, Hall began volunteering at House of Hope. Then she started working there.

“I said, ‘One of these days, I’m going to have a shelter of my own, to give back a little of all that I received,’” Hall said.

That inner voice said now

When her grown daughter, living in Kansas City, announced she was having a baby, Hall moved to the metro to help out. “I wanted to give my daughter all the support I didn’t have,” Hall said. She enrolled in JCCC with the goal of educating herself in real estate investment. Classes like ENTR 130, The Entrepreneurial Mindset, helped her begin a business plan.

When she stepped into a potential property on Swope Parkway, however, her plans changed. “I thought for sure I was going to be a real estate investor, and that one day I’d have my nonprofit. I prayed on it. Then a voice came to me and said, ‘You’re going to get the house, but it isn’t going to be an investment. It’s going to be your shelter,’” Hall said.

So, she listened to that voice inside her head. She bought the house and made extensive repairs to the once-splendorous building. She shopped thrift stores for furniture, solicited donations for new mattresses and accepted a pile of bed linens from a hotel in Branson, Missouri, where a friend had a contact.

Getting the right mindset

“All my time, sweat, tears and money is in this place,” Hall said. “I learned from The Entrepreneurial Mindset class that you can use what you have. You don’t have to wait for everything to be perfect in order to move forward. If you do, you might never move forward, so I use what I have now and improve as I go along.”

AngelEyes Maternity Home residents are required to either attend school or work full time. They also are expected to complete household chores and, if not choosing adoption, attend parenting classes.

Hall said opening AngelEyes – named after her granddaughter, Angel – was tough, but the next struggle may be even bigger. She’ll have to raise the funds to keep it going. The need is there, she said. “I didn’t do much advertising to get the word out, and I’ve already got a waiting list of 12,” Hall said.

Her business plan will come in handy as she solicits donations, showing potential donors she’s committed to the maternity home’s success.

Donna Duffey, Professor and Chair of Entrepreneurship at JCCC, said she’s enjoyed helping Hall with her start-up. “The entire entrepreneurial faculty team has certainly enjoyed helping Marsha with her venture,” Duffey said. “She has been an inspiration to her fellow students, as well as to the faculty and staff of the entrepreneurship program.”