Conway home transforms into shelter for homeless pregnant teens

Scared, pregnant and homeless is the fate for scores of teenagers in Horry County but a new shelter home is being developed for pregnant teens and their infants, a first for the county.

Amidst the paint cans and cleaning supplies inside the modest 3-bedroom home, a single candle glows, perhaps a symbol of Lorretta Keeling's mission to turn the little house into the Horry County Teens and Infants Shelter Home.

"We have girls giving birth in the woods," Keeling said. "It's not what God intended for it to be happening."

Currently, the closest shelter for pregnant teens is more than 100 miles away, in the Charleston area. Keeling has no idea why there's never been a shelter for pregnant and homeless teens in Horry County. She just knows that as soon as she found the need, she had to do something.

"When you see something that's that wrong, you have to fix it. You got to fix the wrong," she said. "By not helping them, we're failing two generations, mother and infant, so it's unacceptable."

Keeling's passion for the project inspired others, like a local contractor who's volunteering to help transform the house..

"It's a social responsibility that we should all have and of course it's also God's work, so we always feel happy when we're doing God's work," said Brendan Curran, who spent Thursday installing flooring and thresholds throughout the house.

Guidance and education will be key goals for shelter residents, Keeling said.

She explained that a typical scenario is for a teen to get pregnant and thrown out of the house by her parents, and that's where her education often ends.

Keeling said the home will be ready to open by Sept. 2, but between now and then, the shelter needs: "Everything, from A to Z," she said. "Fundraising, funds, volunteers. We just need the community not to judge it, not to judge the kids, and to open their hearts to it all."

Lorretta has invested a year of her time and $20,000 of her own money toward this project, but she said more needs to be done.

Fundraisers will be held August 16, 17 and 18 at the 2001 Nightclub with all proceeds going to the teen shelter home.