In January of 2013, news stories announced that teen pregnancy rates in South Carolina had dropped for the fourth year in a row. But statistics still showed that the state was number 11 nationwide in the number of teens between 15 and 19 who gave birth in the previous year.For Dwiyana Hill, it was time to take action. So she began the process of setting up The Pressley House, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides a boarding home for pregnant teens and young adults.
It’s not a traditional “home for unwed mothers” like the ones that have all but vanished in the U.S. since the 1970’s. Before the stigma of being a single mother gave way to acceptance of single parents, the boarding facilities for pregnant teens and young women were usually operated by adoption agencies. The price for the help they provided was simple: you moved in, were taken care of during your pregnancy, and you relinquished your baby as soon as it was born.
There isn’t a price for the help that Dwiyana Hill is offering, and young women can decide for themselves whether they intend to parent their baby as a single mom, share responsibility with the father, or consider adoption.
Mary Pressley’s Legacy
Dwiyana Hill isn’t the first woman in her family to reach out to young mothers. The Pressley House is named after her great grandmother, Mrs. Mary Pressley, who ran a boarding house for young girls while they attended school.
Mary Pressley’s Harden Street home made it possible for an earlier generation of young girls to stay in school, and Hill believes that carrying on the multi-generational legacy of helping young women in South Carolina is both a privilege and a calling.
Part of Mary Pressley’s legacy is a focus on education. The other part of the legacy, according to her great granddaughter, is to guide young girls towards a future where they can set and achieve their own goals.
The Pressley House is a safe, interim home for young mothers and babies, Hill says. Without that safe base, it can be hard to stay in school, become great parents, and avoid the many pitfalls along the way.
Dwiyana Hill’s Mission
The Pressley House was established in January, 2013, just as the media in South Carolina was celebrating the drop in teen pregnancies. The first group of girls is expected to move into the new facility in a few weeks.
So why invest the time and money to create a resource for pregnant teens if the news was so positive? Because, Hill says, too many teenage girls were still dropping out of school, and struggling to care for themselves and their babies.
“If they’re homeless or living in a bad environment, it’s there to be a support system to give them a safe haven for them to live,” she said. “We already have a lot of volunteers and a very active board of directors.”
The nonprofit organization helps teenage moms complete their education, while providing the other support systems that can make a difference in their lives. “They need help with their babies, school supplies, advice and help with nutrition for themselves and the babies – so many needs that just weren’t being met.”
“We want to provide a well-rounded service for these young ladies, including a long-term place for them to live,” she said.
Therapists, childcare specialists, and community leaders are involved with Pressley House, which accepts girls and young women between 12 and 21 years of age.
“I’ve always wanted to work with kids in some capacity,” she said. “I grew up in a neighborhood where there were lots of pregnant teens. The resources weren’t there, so it’s near and dear to my heart to do something for this community. It’s my God-sent calling.”
It was no easy task to raise the money for the start-up costs involved in finding a suitable location and setting up a nonprofit organization. But it’s been worth it for Hill. “I’ve enjoyed the entire process,” she said. “It’s fulfilling because once the puzzle pieces come together, it’s going to really make a difference.”
There are three similar facilities in South Carolina, but none in Columbia. “We needed this kind of resource here, because over half of the girls who get pregnant while they’re still in school drop out,” Hill says.
Accounting for Non-Profits
One of the first lessons that Hill learned when she started her organization was that accounting for non-profits is a hurdle she wasn’t expecting. “Raising the money was just the first step. As soon as I started spending money on start-up costs, I had to figure out the rules on bookkeeping and accounting for non-profits. And, of course, there was the process of getting non-profit status from the IRS so that we can operate,” Hill adds.
But non-profit status doesn’t mean there are no taxes to worry about. She has the same payroll tax issues as other small businesses, and instead of collecting sales taxes, she has to keep track of items bought for The Pressley House that are exempt from sales taxes – and what items she purchases that are not exempt from the sales tax.
Hill says that the accounting and tax advice she’s gotten as a client of 1-800Accountant has been very helpful. “I’m very satisfied,” she adds.
“I appreciate 1-800Accountant contacting me and checking in on things,” she said. “I didn’t understand everything I needed to know about setting up a non-profit and following the IRS rules to raise money and operate as a non-profit. So it was very helpful to have tax experts who could help me with the process. The last thing I need is to get in trouble with the IRS.
“I am doing this because I feel called to do something important that will help my community. For me, it’s all about finding something you love that is useful to others in order to excel at it. Whatever it is, you have to have a passion for it. Ask yourself, ‘Would I do this for free?’
“If you wouldn’t do it for free, then working for a non-profit probably isn’t for you. But once you find what you love doing, you need to get the help you need to manage the business side of things, too. That’s why I called 1-800Accountant. I want to help teenage girls – not spend my time learning all the IRS rules.”