Monarch's Way school and home for girls is about to take flight

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Carissa Martin tears up frequently as she talks about the "miracles of Monarch's Way."

Her 20-plus-year vision to help girls struggling with life-controlling issues is about to be fulfilled in the massive red brick house with tall white pillars in the Village of Kauffman.

The house has been turned into a private residential Christian school and is scheduled to open this fall.

Local residents can get a look inside and learn how they can help during an open house and fundraiser on Sunday, June 6.

This large house in the Village of Kauffman in Antrim Township will open this fall as Monarch's Way, a private residential Christian school for girls.

'Let's give her wings'

The application process for Monarch's Way begins in June, and the initial enrollment will be up to eight girls 11 through 17. The house can accommodate up to 16 girls.

Monarch's Way is for girls who are facing issues hampering them in daily life, such as eating disorders, self-harm, sexual abuse, suicidal thoughts, depression, drug and alcohol addictions, anxiety, depression and unplanned pregnancies.

"Kids matter. It's tragic to watch our teens suffer," said Martin, who has a background in education and counseling.

"Let's help them heal. Let's help them dream. Together, let’s give her wings!" Martin writes on the Monarch's Way website.

Carissa Martin, founder and president of Monarch's Way, is shown in the renovated kitchen, where girls will learn to cook.

"Our program promises to provide the opportunity to transform hurting teens into individuals who know their identity, believe in their purpose, and dream big about their destiny," says the Monarch Way's website.

The core components of the program are:

  • Academic achievement: Small classes and individual attention to develop a love of learning.
  • Core culture disciplines: Life skills including, but not limited to, responsibility, etiquette, character, finances, health, fitness, giving back, missions and recreation.
  • Counseling and coaching: Counseling model “Choices That Bring Change” combines biblical principles of healing and unconditional love with clinical interventions.
  • Family environment: Houseparents, a married couple, live in the home and model healthy family relationships while incorporating Christian virtues in all aspects of daily living.
  • Family coaching and after-care: Support to help parents help their daughters via communication, connection and understanding includes family encounter weekends, coaching, counseling and resources.
A message on a shelf in the chapel at Monarch's Way.

Money and miracles

Monarch's Way will open debt-free, including the July 2019 purchase price of close to $320,000 and renovations pushing the total over half a million dollars.

That's a long way from when the first offer on the house was made with just $14,000 in the ministry bank account, recalled Martin, who serves as president of the non-profit. She estimates more than 400 donors have helped along the way.

The first fundraiser in March 2019 brought in $82,000.

"We didn't have a property ... we launched a concept," Martin said.

Fighting cancer together: Participants enjoy parade in Greencastle, but miss traditional Relay For Life

Good for the Sole: Little town of Greencastle to set big world record if it can gather 12,482 pairs of shoes

The second annual fundraiser, scheduled for late March 2020, turned into an online auction after COVID-19 hit. The pandemic initially slowed progress, but the money kept coming in.

When the website indicated $120,000 was needed to finish renovations, a couple stepped up to match donations.

"We raised $122,000. It was beautiful," Martin said. "I feel like God has been so faithful. COVID affected us, but God provided via generous people."

Talking about checks that come in the mail even when there is no active fundraising brings Martin to tears.

"People are excited to be able to help the girls and their families in this way," she said.

Help in tangible ways is evident throughout the house and Martin said, "I have to decide which miracle not to talk about so we can get through a tour."

She's heard things like:

"Do you need tile laid?"

"Does Monarch's Way need a big screen TV?"

"I will pay for that van."

"Do you need fitness equipment?"

"I've been praying to run into you ... I know it's frivolous, but I want to do a water feature and fish pond."

There are people who show up every week to mow the grass and shelves in the basement are full of cleaning supplies and paper products collected by Grand Point Church in Chambersburg.

"It's just awesome. You can't deny that God's at work in this project," Martin said.

A fitness center is located in the basement of Monarch's Way.

What's inside

Martin knew the house at 7465 Angle Road in Antrim Township between Greencastle and Chambersburg was perfect for Monarch's Way.

"When Mr. (Raymond) Wishard, the gentleman who had built the home was living, we had many conversations about what I believed would take place in his beautiful home after he was no longer living there," Martin recalled.

The property sat vacant for years after Wishard's death and needed top to bottom renovations.

"A lot's been done by volunteers using their talents," Martin said.

The Monarch's Way chapel was once a garage and the doors can be opened to provide indoor-outdoor space.

A design student, unable to do an internship because of COVID-19, designed the chapel in what had been the garage. Her family has a foundation which provided and paid for the couches, chairs, tables and other furniture.

"We call this our connection room," said Martin, who explained the garage doors can be opened to create an indoor-outdoor space.

Next door, the former breezeway houses long tables in a dining area that embodies the importance of family meals. Martin envisions events like teas or Bible studies for outside groups in this space, allowing the girls to practice etiquette and speaking skills.

Girls will learn to cook in the spacious kitchen, grow some of their own food in a garden and relax in a living room highlighted by a large stone fireplace.

The house parents will live in a suite on the first floor and create a family environment. They will be with the girls from 4 in the afternoon through dinner, the evening hours and overnight until breakfast. Other staff members include an educational director and an activities director, plus contracted counseling services.

Girls will share rooms at Monarch's Way.

The second floor features seven bedrooms, some of which will be used by weekend relief staff; two bathrooms; two libraries; and a wide hallway.

Each bedroom has two single beds. Privacy and storage are provided by movable white racks with rods shelves, spotted by a Monarch's Way supporter when the Dress Barn in Hagerstown was going out of business.

Classrooms at Monarch's Way feature an individual work space for each student.

The school day begins with chapel then the girls will head downstairs to the two basement classrooms. The basement renovation is two years ahead of schedule, but not that long ago, one room featured just a concrete floor with a toilet in the corner. Now tables are mounted on the walls in the carpeted space, with laptops and chairs provided at each workspace.

Fitness equipment, also found by a friend of Monarch's Way, fills one room in the basement and across the hall is the creative arts room.

'Born of a Vision'

Craig Schwartz of Mercersburg created the sculpture 'Born of a Vision: The Girls of Monarch's Way.'

A metal sculpture in the backyard encompasses Martin's motivation for founding Monarch's Way.

"I wanted something that shows a girl fully free and alive," she said.

Mercersburg artist Craig Schwartz created the whimsical scene of two girls on a tire swing. Called "Born of a Vision: The Girls of Monarch's Way," Schwartz told Martin this is his first piece that "moves under the breath of God."

A monarch butterfly perches atop the assembly and, in a nod to the red-headed Martin, one girl's hair is made of cooper.

Open house and fundraiser

People planning to attend the open house and fundraiser, which will be held from 2 to 6 p.m., need to sign up for spots to tour the house by June 1 by calling 717-552-8795 or at mwopenhouse.eventbrite.com

The afternoon also will include a "giving fair" under a big-top tent in the front yard. Visitors will be able to see what's still needed for the home and school.

An open house and fundraiser will be held June 6 at Monarch's Way. Visitors need to sign up for a tour time by June 1.

In addition to monetary donations, giving opportunities range from groceries for a day, week or month to shovels and wheel barrows for yard work.

People can also volunteer to share their talents, such as baking cakes or making jewelry, with the girls and learn about events planned at Monarch's Way.

To learn more, visit the Monarch's Way website.