There is no loneliness as deep and as painful as that felt by a pregnant youth with no one to turn to. Bringing a child into this world as a child yourself is an experience that most will never understand, but with groups like The Open Door, we can actively reach out in support of those who feel exiled and alone.
Through all of her mother’s hardships though, the church never extended a helping hand. Deana decided to change this. As Christians, we are called to help those who walk alone, without regard to the path that got them there.
Deana Cerniglia, founder of The Open Door, is no stranger to the journey of teen motherhood. At sixteen, her mother became pregnant with Deana. Confused and abandoned, she was forced to drop out of high school at seventeen. Deana knows from the heart wrenching stories of her adoring mother, the uneducated decisions and hopelessness teen moms and their children experience. Through all of her mother’s hardships though, the church never extended a helping hand. Deana decided to change this. As Christians, we are called to help those who walk alone, without regard to the path that got them there. Deana is determined to show teen mothers that God is still with them, and that there is way to break two generational cycles at a time. Putting all her trust in God, she founded The Open Door/Mentors For Teen Mothers, a nonprofit organization in Palm Beach County serving young mothers and their pro-life decision.
“Our mission is to encourage, equip and develop mothers with the love, grace and accountability of Jesus Christ toward independent living,” shared Deana.
As with any great endeavor, starting The Open Door was not a walk in the park. With no knowledge in fundraising, starting a nonprofit or building awareness for the organization, Deana let God do the work. She has been amazed at the provisions, guidance and support He has provided every step of the way.
The Open Door matches every teen mother with a Christian Mentor who walks through the three-year program. The program consists of Life-skill classes, including parenting, budgeting, healthy relationships, job skills, other skills necessary to prepare the participant as she embarks in a God-centered life with her child. Accountability is important with The Open Door. Every participant must sign a contact binding her to completing her education, setting up goals and working to achieve those goals. This accountability obliges the participants to attend Life-skill classes and delay further pregnancies while preparing them to be independent from government assistance. The Open Door organizes fundraising activities to supplement the high cost of day-care, which is one of the biggest hurdles teen moms face in attaining their independence.
With God’s guidance, The Open Door was able to partner with Christian organizations such as the Housing Trust Group (HTG) and Wheels From the Heart. The generous contributions from these partners allowed The Open Door to provide affordable housing to their participants. The participants are able to stay on budget, graduate from high school, start college, attain driver’s license, build resumes, and even drive used cars so they don’t have to use public transportation which can eat up to four hours of their day.
“If money was no object and the sky were the limit, we’d financially help churches run their own programs, market more and help train/facilitate more churches to do what we are doing,” said Deana Cerniglia, President and Angela Ball, Vice President of Open Door.
In addition to First Presbyterian of North Palm Beach, Deana revealed that they would be opening two new charters: Christ Fellowship of Palm Beach Gardens and Calvary Chapel of Lake Worth.
The Open Door is a fairly new nonprofit and they want to continue building awareness about their program and help as many motivated mothers to break generational cycles. Hopefully, through God’s grace, they could get this program into as many churches as possible, with the guidance of Teen Mothers Choices International.
Having been born to a teen mother forty years ago, Deana became passionate to help others break generational cycles. In her memoir, The Open Door, she tells her personal story of dysfunction, addiction, sexual abuse and abandonment. She also shares how God’s Word helped her overcome some horrific trials from her past and live a healthy, peaceful existence through God’s love and through accountability. When you buy Deana’s memoir, you are helping The Open Door with part of the proceeds helping to support The Open Door/Mentors For Teen Mothers. You can visit www.breakingcycles.net to get your copy.
For donation information and to start an Open Door Charter at your church, please visit www.mentorsforteenmothers.org and discover how you can change the lives of young mothers and their children through The Open Door.
Open Door Charters
First Presbyterian: Executive Director, Deana Cerniglia
Christ fellowship: Executive Director, Angela Ball
Calvary chapel: Executive Director, Aimee Nelson.