More than 20 Hays restaurants will come together Sunday evening to throw a huge dinner party for a good cause — supporting continued operations of Mary Elizabeth Maternity Home.
The annual Taste of Hays fundraiser will be from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Fort Hays State University’s Memorial Union Ballroom. Tickets are $100 per couple and can be reserved by calling the home at (785) 625-6800. Approximately 20 tickets were available as of Thursday afternoon.
A total of 21 Hays restaurants will bring their specialty dishes for the buffet-style meal. The local businesses donate their goods and time in support of the maternity home, said Executive Director Christin Nunnery.
“We have a very, very supportive community,” she said. “A lot of these people have come every year. We had people this year buy three or four tickets instead of one. Once people come, it’s just a really cool atmosphere.”
New restaurants participating this year include SmallCakes Cupcakery, Hickok’s Steakhouse, Sake2Me Sushi & Seafood Grille, TK’s Smokehaus and Walmart deli.
They will join many others that have been participating for years, including Gutierrez Cocina Mexicana, Applebee’s, Dairy Queen, Thirsty’s Brew Pub & Grill, Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers and Daylight Donuts, Nunnery said.
Attendees also will have a chance to win one of more than 45 prizes, including cash, televisions, tools and a Kindle Fire.
The event is the maternity home’s only fundraiser, which is necessary to help with operating expenses and meeting the various needs of young mothers, Nunnery said.
The home, located at 204 W. Seventh, is licensed by the state to care for pregnant women or new mothers between the ages of 10 and 21.
Referrals are given by two local agencies, but mothers and their families also can seek services themselves. The home also has provided assistance to college students who become pregnant and have difficulty making ends meet financially, she said.
Last year, the Christian ministry provided housing, education and other services to 14 women.
“A lot of our girls are in the foster-care system, and they just happen to be pregnant. They come to the home, and we teach them life skills for if they are going to parent or give the baby up for adoption,” she said. “We make sure they go to school and take them to appointments. We just help them carry out a healthy pregnancy. A lot of times, if they’re at home, they might not get the services or have a parent who can take them to appointments.”
The home provides birthing classes to prepare the women for labor and delivery, and parenting classes if the mother chooses to raise the baby. Care is greatly individualized depending on the mother’s situation, medical needs and case management plans from state referrals.
Dynamics have changed in recent years due to state budget cuts, which have resulted in the state Department for Children and Families no longer referring young women simply because of truancy issues, Nunnery said.
“And a lot of times, those were the girls we got,” Nunnery said. “Now, DCF doesn’t pull kids out of the home for just that reason. A lot of the girls we’re seeing now, they themselves either have a felony or something against them, or they get pulled into the system for something they’ve done other than not going to school. Or we do have girls that their parents just can’t take care of them.”
The maternity home covers the costs of lodging, meals, transportation to school and health care appointments, and in some cases, even the full cost of medication for uninsured women. The ministry also provides infant care items, such as appropriate car seats and portable cribs.
Mothers can arrive at the home at any point in their pregnancy and are welcome to stay until six months after delivery.
“And so some of them stay for a long period; some of them are only here for a month,” Nunnery said. “It just depends on the family and if they can get them back to the house with their family.”