CINCINNATI — For more than five years, Rosemary Oglesby-Henry has invested time, energy and resources into helping teen parents through her nonprofit Rosemary’s Babies Company.
The teens she helps feel her support when Oglesby-Henry takes their calls, gets them rides to medical appointments and provides them with diapers and clothing for their babies.
Now Oglesby-Henry is showing her young clients how much other people also care. Two entrepreneurs have made major donations to help Rosemary’s Babies Company, or RBC, open a residential home for teen moms in North Avondale.
Stevie Swain, CEO of West Chester-based Swain Consulting, donated $10,000 to the cause at RBC’s fifth birthday gala in November. And Swain’s friend Cheryl Polote Williamson, a Texas-based entrepreneur and motivational speaker, made a $5,000 donation that night and pledged to give the organization an additional $55,000.
“There’s this photo of the kids trying to hold me up where I was just in tears,” Oglesby-Henry said of her reaction at the gala. “I’m a person with so many words. And I just couldn’t say anything -- but ‘God.’”
The timing of the donations was critical. The Port agreed to sell RBC the historic Rubel House in North Avondale if the Oglesby-Henry can raise $1 million by March 28. That’s how much the organization will need to transform the old mansion on Reading Road into the Holloway House & Resource Center, which will provide supportive housing and resources for parents between the ages of nine and 19.
“These kids are couch hopping,” Oglesby-Henry said. “They are the hidden population that you read about that won’t tell anybody that they’re homeless because they don’t want anybody to take their baby.”
Strategies to End Homelessness saw the number of teen parents experiencing homelessness has increased significantly, according to new data. The number of 18- and 19-year old Hamilton County parents in homeless shelters grew by more than 20% between 2020 and 2021, according to the data.
And the number of 18- and 19-year old parents who called the organization's help line looking for shelter grew by more than 48 percent during that time frame. The figures don't include younger teen parents. Strategies doesn't have data on them specifically because they can't enter shelter without a parent or guardian of their own.
"Our homeless population has been getting younger and younger," said Kevin Finn, CEO of Strategies to End Homelessness.
Swain, who was a teen mom herself, said she’s happy to support Oglesby-Henry and her work.
“What she’s doing is showing these young ladies: You may be a teen mom. But that doesn’t mean your life is over. And look at the support I’m going to rally up to help you move forward,” Swain said. “If I can help, that’s absolutely a worthy cause to be a part of.”
‘What I had to do’
Swain’s support has gone beyond her $10,000 contribution.
She introduced Oglesby-Henry to Williamson, who is a friend of Swain’s. Swain also sponsored an article about Oglesby-Henry’s work for the winter edition of Cheryl Magazine, a quarterly publication that one of Williamson’s companies publishes to highlight the work and contributions of women.
After that sponsorship and introduction, Oglesby-Henry flew to Los Angeles for an event Williamson was hosting to empower women. Williamson already was inspired by Oglesby-Henry’s story and mission, she said, but meeting her in person sealed the deal.
“When I hugged her, I realized there was something different about her,” Williamson said. “I’m big on energy, and I’m big on how people make you feel. So, I say it wasn’t just her story. It was her aura. I wanted to be connected to her, and I wanted to do something that would help her carry on her dream and her promise to another level.”
Williamson said she knew she wanted to attend the RBC gala and donate to the Holloway House capital campaign. She decided just before the gala to donate $5,000 that night but didn’t decide on how much she would give all together, she said, until she was speaking before the people in attendance.
“Once I got on stage, and it was something in my heart that said, this is her fifth-year anniversary. How can I really make an impact beyond this $5,000?” Williamson said. “And so, it just came out of me. So, I decided to donate $5,000 every five months for the next five years. I didn’t even add it up. It didn’t matter. I just knew that it was what I had to do.”
She also challenged others at the gala to donate, and Oglesby-Henry said the gala ended up raising more than $125,000, a higher total than any previous event.
That added to the funds already raised and brought RBC’s capital campaign to the halfway mark, Oglesby-Henry said, with about three months left to raise another $500,000.
“We have until March 28 to come up with that million dollars,” Oglesby-Henry said. “We are asking the community again for in-kind support, pledges and just to contact us to see what they can do.”
‘You don’t have to be rich to be kind’
Swain said she hopes the donations that she and Williamson made will inspire others to give.
“Honestly, I hope that other people will look at what somebody else did out of the kindness of their heart and it tugs on some heartstrings to make other people step up to the plate,” she said. “Let’s join together as a community and get behind something that’s really positive and worthwhile. Make the investment to help somebody else.”
Swain said she knows there are those who disapprove of RBC’s work because they strongly believe teens shouldn’t be having babies, and she has a message for them.
“That message is, please don’t pass judgment because you don’t know their stories. You’ve not walked in their shoes, and nobody’s perfect,” she said. “And just because they ended up pregnant at a young age and they’re single doesn’t give anybody the right to speak negative about them.”
Williamson said she believes improving the lives of young parents will improve the lives of their children, too, thereby making their families and communities stronger.
“I also believe in generational blessings. And so my legacy 100 years from now or 1,000 years from now, when I’m no longer here, is that people will know that we all have the ability to make a difference,” she said. “My words to people are do what you can to make a difference in the life of somebody else. Because when you do that, it makes a difference in your own life in ways that you cannot even put into words.”
For Williamson, she said, it all comes down to kindness.
“You don’t have to be rich to be kind,” she said. “We all should has a master’s degree in kindness because it changes the world. It changes the outcomes of how we live, how we breathe, how we do life together.”
More information about Rosemary’s Babies Company is available online. Information about the capital campaign for Holloway House and how you can help is available online, too.
Acts of Kindness stories appear weekly on WCPO 9 News and WCPO.com. If you know about an act of kindness that you think should be highlighted, email Newsdesk@wcpo.com with the subject line “Acts of Kindness.”