by: RITA A. LEONARD - Joy Leising introduces the new downstairs recreation room for the resident girls in the former Brooklyn convent building.The former Sacred Heart Convent at 3810 S.E. 11th Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood – which housed the Benedictine Sisters of Mt. Angel from 1911 to 2006 – Is now ready for its new purpose.

Purchased four years ago by the Boys & Girls Aid Society, the ten-bedroom facility has been updated for use as a temporary home for teenage girls in the Pettygrove Residential Program.

After considerable remodeling, the Pettygrove House hosted an August 23 open house of the former convent, with guided tours for neighbors to showcase the new teen residence.

Part of the open house was a program featuring B&GA President Michael Balter – along with Phillip Cox, Asst. Director of Community Programs for the Oregon Youth Authority, and Suzan Huntington, who is Vice President of Development at B&GA.

With a new roof, redecorated bedrooms, and updated bathrooms, kitchen and common areas, the new home will soon serve up to ten resident teens, mostly aged 14-18.

The facility will afford safe and stable supervised housing and mentoring while the girls learn to get their lives back on track. Supervision around the clock will include individual counseling, group skill-building, and learning to develop skills for employment, and to develop appropriate adult relationships that overcome former self-destructive behaviors. Many of the girls come from turbulent families, and are considered victims, rather than perpetrators.

The teens will initially have little, if any, interaction with the community. They will be transported for schooling to a special DART Program located within Benson High School.

Each girl has agreed to cooperate with the Brooklyn residence’s strict housing rules. No cell phones or criminal activity will be tolerated. Girls who overstep their bounds will be immediately removed from the program and referred back to the OYA for court proceedings.

Volunteers painted all the bedrooms and common areas in fresh pastels, and then decorated them with quilts, stuffed animals, and other furnishings.

A former Brooklyn School Principal who now volunteers with the program added, “We need to remember: They’re just teenagers, and all kids make mistakes. They need to know they are loved in spite of that, and that they can make their lives better here."

The building also includes offices and counseling areas the on-site for staff to observe and direct teen activities. Over the course of the nine-month program, staffmembers help the girls transition back to appropriate interactions with each other, and with family during visitations. The girls learn to cook, share their stories, finish their homework, and prepare for useful jobs.

A “Good Neighbor Agreement” has been pledged between the Pettygrove Program and the community. Questions and comments can also be referred to Suzan Huntington at 503/542-2304, or by e-mail at: HYPERLINK "mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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