Women's Shelter Set To Expand

With Growth, Chrysalis House Will Be Able To Treat More Mothers, Children

July 14, 1991|By Robert Lee | Robert Lee,Staff writer

A chrysalis is the shell a caterpillar builds around itself as it changes into a butterfly.

Chrysalis House -- the addicted women's shelter behind Pasadena Crossroads -- is in the midst of a metamorphosis of its own this summer.

The 6-year-old center has hired a new director to guide the shelter as it triples in size to offer rehabilitation services for pregnant women and mothers with their children.

The new director is NancyCooper Morgan, a former stage and movie actress who founded and coordinated three family-oriented drug treatment programs in Baltimore and Timonium during the 1980s. She began work this week.

The center's $1.6 million expansion will begin later this summer. The project was made possible by contributions of $974,000 from the state, $285,000from the private sector, $240,000 from the board and $100,000 from the United Way.

Chrysalis House shelters and trains addicted women for up to a year after they leave a 30-day detoxification program. Itoperates as a family support network for 10 women and three infants.When the new center is completed in 1992, it will be able to treat 17 addicted single women and five mothers with up to 10 children.

Chrysalis board president Beth Peters said Morgan is the perfect person to break down the barriers for women who need to enter a rehabilitation program but don't want to abandon their children. Only one otherpublic facility in the state offers women a place to go with their children, she said.

"We're tickled to have her. She's a really neatperson, and her background is well suited for the cause," Peters said.

Morgan will introduce a new program at Chrysalis House to teachconflict resolution and family skills to mothers and their children.It will be the first of its kind in the state, Peters said.

Morgan, who played the Alcoholics Anonymous counselor in John Waters' film"Polyester," began her social work career by organizing and editing "Feelings Through Poetry from a Women's Prison," an anthology of poems written at Jessup's Correctional Institute for Women.

Since then, she received her master's degree in counseling and human development from Johns Hopkins University. She established the St. Vincent's Child and Family Care Center and the Parent-Child Stress Center and developed the parent education program for intravenous drug users at theJohns Hopkins University psychiatry department.

Former co-workerssay Morgan has the ability to win over even the most reticent drug abusers with her outgoing personality and theatrical charm.

"What we found was that sometimes we gear things to middle-class suburban people. (Morgan) incorporates some of her theater talents to deal with the victims of society. She gets them involved in poetry and parenting. Everybody loved her class," said Linda Bartlett, who worked in theparenting program at Johns Hopkins.

Morgan said she relates well with the clients because, like 90 percent of addicted women, she was raised in an abusive home.

Her strength, she says, comes from the ghost of her grandmother, Phoebe Woodard, who used her performing talents for a different kind of alcohol intervention.

Woodard was an undercover federal agent infiltrating the speakeasies of Olean, N.Y.,by posing as a piano player and singer. She was found murdered in 1925.

"They tried to say she died from wood alcohol poisoning, but they found heel marks on her back," Morgan said.

"It was very unusual to have a woman doing that kind of thing back then. She must have been remarkable. I've always felt this strange kind of link to my grandmother, like I'm carrying on her legacy," she said.

"All of the issues in life and counseling are also in drama. I've always been interested in them and how they work together," Morgan said.

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