Thanks to the generosity of a Milford property owner, a local ministry is now able to offer housing for women who are living in crisis situations.


Thanks to the generosity of a Milford property owner, a local ministry is now able to offer housing for women who are living in crisis situations.

The first resident of the Daughters of Zion Outreach Center is expected to move in by Jan. 1, said center director Joann Fitchett, a Milfordian who is among the eight women who comprise the Daughters of Zion ministry.

The donated property, two apartments in Milford, will accommodate either two families or eight individuals. The property owner, a Milford Church of God member, wants to remain anonymous.

“We are calling a hand up program offering them assistance in getting back up and their feet again,” Fitchett said. “What we intend to do now through these apartments is to offer mothers, women who already have children and pregnant women over the age of 18 residential housing for up to one year’s time.”

The length of stay and rent charged, if any, will be based on each woman’s financial situation.

“Some of them will pay nothing all, or a small amount,” Fitchett said. “Our goal is to let them stay there the entire time free of charge so we can help them save and get where they need to be emotionally, financially and spiritually.”

Along with shelter, the residents will receive help from an education and job placement specialist.

“She will help them finish their education,” Fitchett said. “She will help them to transition to the workforce through courses and job counseling, and she provide them training in budgeting money and handling finances.”

A licensed counselor will provide counseling to the women based on their individual needs, and the women will be partnered with mentors to offer them “strength, wisdom and support,” Fitchett said.

“The mentors will be women who have been in their position and were able to rise out of that circumstance,” she said. “This will be someone who will continue to stay in contact with them, even after they finish the program.”

The comprehensive apartment assistance program is “much needed” in Sussex County,” said Janne Collins, coordinator for the Sussex Pregnancy Care Center in Georgetown, where Fitchett volunteers.

The Daughters of Zion ministry was started two years ago among Milford Church of God congregation members with the goal of establishing a maternity home where young, unwed mothers could live and receive needed services.

Such a maternity home is desperately needed because there are few sources for housing help, other than a maternity home located upstate, Collins said.

“I think (a maternity home) is a big vision, but it’s a very needed service in the area,” Collins said. “Women are the most underserved in our area, especially women who are pregnant and women with children. The resources we have in the area have waiting lists.”

While establishing a maternity home is still a long-term goal, the Daughters of Zion have focused, in the past two years, on becoming a source of help for women living in crisis situations, with the help of people from various churches and denominations across the region. The ministry has done everything from helping mothers furnish their homes, and providing gas cards for mothers to use to visit their hospitalized children to giving away diapers, formula and clothing.

Helping women in crisis has its own rewards, Fitchett said.

“To be able to offer someone a second chance, hope and encouragement – you can’t put any dollar amount to that,” she said. “This is the most fulfilling thing I have had the opportunity to do.”

The group is now seeking churches, individuals and businesses to become partners in Daughters of Zion’s efforts.

“It’s a community ministry,” Fitchett said.

A fundraiser to benefit the ministry will be held on Jan. 5 from 8:40 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Curves Fitness Center located at 607 N. DuPont Blvd. in Milford.

Call 542-4266 or send an e-mail to jlf1993@yahoo.com for more information about the Daughters of Zion or the apartment assistance program. Donations may be sent to 4771 Mills Road, Milford, DE 19963.