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Woman has faith in school

December 20, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

KEARNEYSVILLE, W.Va. - The ground breaking for a faith-based school for troubled girls is expected to happen this spring, although organizers still need to raise $1 million.

Despite the large fund-raising goal, Jeannie Hellem is not discouraged because she has faith the community - businesses and individuals - will help.

One million dollars may sound like a lot of money, but it's not when you think that the institution it will provide is expected to last at least 100 years and of the impact it will make, said Hellem, executive director of Eagles' Wings Educational Girls Home.

The faith-based, nondenominational boarding school off Opequon Lane will help girls who are falling through the cracks academically, spiritually and socially, Hellem said.

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"It's going to change the way they think. It's going to change the way they look at themselves," she said.

The girls' home will accept 24 needy girls, ages 13 to 18, at a time for two-year terms. The school will primarily serve girls from the four-state region of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

The girls may have experienced abuse or neglect and will have fallen behind in school, she said. Hellem said the home will accept referrals from anywhere, including the juvenile justice system and family members.

"These girls that are hurting could be any of our girls," Hellem said. "They just need to know they can be successful."

The girls will have a chance to learn culinary arts, gardening, a foreign language and what artistic ability they have. At the end of the two years the girls will go on a mission trip to Mexico.

They also will be taught about God, something they can't be taught when in state-run facilities, Hellem said.

"That is a key ingredient for these girls. They're going to be able to come here and learn about him," Hellem said.

The nonprofit group already has raised $96,000 for operational expenses. The sources include a $44,744 matching grant from Phoenix Color Corp. and a $10,000 Norm Thompson Discovery Grant.

There will be no mandatory fee, Hellem said. Money raised from the community will pay for the costs the families of needy girls cannot pay, while Hellem hopes the families who can afford it will make donations. Those who can't make a monetary contribution can barter with the home by helping out on the farm.

The school, to be built on an old dairy farm, will be a glass and stone building shaped like a barn with apartments for live-in staff and parents visiting from out of state who cannot afford to stay in motels, Hellem said.

The three-story girls' home will include eight bedrooms for the girls, three classrooms, an aerobic workout room, office space, a large living room, a dining room and a library.

Contributing to the construction of the girls' home gives people a rare opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

"Most of us never have an opportunity to be a founder for something," Hellem said. Donors who contribute $5,000 or more will get their name or the name of their business or organization on a founders plaque.

Area businesses could get tax credits for donating to the project.

The girls' home was given $100,000 in tax credit vouchers that could result in the potential for $200,000 in donations from area businesses.

Contributions to Eagles' Wings can be sent to Route 2, Box 286, Kearneysville, WV 25430. Call 1-304-264-2792 for more information.

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