Monday, May 16, 2005

Suisun City woman wins public service award

The Jefferson Award: Lorraine Hargrave, mother to teen moms

By Heather Maddan, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, May 14, 2005

Bay Area Jefferson Award winner: Lorraine Hargrave, founder of Children in Need of Hugs, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter for homeless pregnant teenagers and young mothers and their children in Suisun City.

How she started: When Hargrave's daughter was in high school, she told Hargrave about the teenage mothers she knew who were struggling with the limited resources available to them in Solano County.

Hargrave understood the obstacles they faced -- she grew up in foster care, became a mother at 16, and found herself homeless at 18, the age foster care ends.

She wanted to offer girls in similar circumstances a home, so she started Children in Need of Hugs. She put together brochures and handed them out at local high schools and social service agencies. In 2002, she rented a house and the first residents moved in.

And now: Today, Children in Need of Hugs provides housing for as many as three young women and six children at a time.

Residents must be drug-free, go to school or pursue employment, cook their own food and abide by curfew.

If the residents cannot afford child care, Hargrave -- who has a child-care license -- watches their children. The women also take parenting classes and learn skills they need to make it on their own. Hargrave works nights as a 911 dispatcher. She pays her residents' expenses out of her own pocket and with private donations. Hargrave has housed 18 girls since starting the program, but she's had 75 referrals in the last three years, and there is always a waiting list.

Her inspiration: Hargrave says she takes pride in watching the girls in her program thrive. Many of them have been physically, mentally and sexually abused. Some have hustled on the streets to get by. At Hargrave's house, they have their own rooms away from the streets, and some of the girls have ended up on the honor roll at school.

In her own words: "We're not here to duplicate any kind of program. We're here to fill the gap of what's lacking in our community -- which is programs for teen moms that are homeless," she said.

What others say about her: "She's a phenomenal woman," said Deborah Cudmore, case manager with the Adolescent Family Life Program at Planned Parenthood in Fairfield. "This is her passion. It's more than a home for the girls -- she's there for them. She throws them baby showers and is there for the births. She's more like a mom than a program director. Other shelters are in no degree providing what she's providing."

Cudmore says she frequently refers clients to Children in Need of Hugs. "We counsel pregnant parenting teens, and unfortunately a lot end up homeless. Housing is a major issue with clients. Lorraine has come through for us on several occasions. She has been a major asset -- we wish she had more homes," said Cudmore.

To find out more: Call (707) 421-9887 or visit

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