Giovanna Andrews, now 23, was just a little thing, trailing behind her mom when I first met her.
Over the years, her mother Chauntee D. Andrews, the artistic director for Dance 4 Life School of the Arts and Training Institute in Claymont, Del., kept me posted on how her daughter was doing in school and how she was a real go-getter in college. I loved getting the Giovanna updates. Then I saw on Facebook that Giovanna, through an unplanned pregnancy, had become a mother. I worried it might derail her.
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Instead, the experience fueled Giovanna to take her life in a whole other direction. These days, in addition to being a digital media and web content coordinator for Wilmington’s City Council president, she runs Harper’s Heart, a charity she founded to help needy mothers stock up on baby supplies. She was inspired by her own experience as a young, unprepared new mom.
“When I got pregnant, I thought that my life was over," says Giovanna. "I thought I had thrown away four-and-a-half years of schooling.”
At the time, she was a 21-year-old honors student, on a summer break and finishing up her last year at Bloomsburg University, where she was majoring in communications with a concentration in leadership and public advocacy.
When her pregnancy test turned positive, “I burst into tears,” she says. “I told my mom the next day and she cried."
Giovanna felt guilty, scared, and in desperate need of someone with whom she could talk things over. She remembered how a representative from a crisis pregnancy center had visited one of her college classes the previous year. Hoping the center could help her now, she placed a call.
The employee who answered the phone spoke kindly to Giovanna and prayed with her. She then referred Andrews to Door of Hope, a crisis pregnancy center closer to where Giovanna was living in Delaware. Having someone to help her consider her options made all of the difference for Giovanna, who chose to continue her pregnancy.
When she returned to Bloombsburg, Giovanna was four months along and started visiting a pregnancy-support center called Loving Choices. She took parenting classes and earned “mommy dollars” that could be exchanged for infant clothing, a bathtub, a crib, and other new and gently-used merchandise from the center’s store. The center’s services boosted her confidence, helping her feel more prepared for motherhood.
Despite being hospitalized twice for pregnancy-related complications, Giovanna graduated as scheduled in December 2017. Isabella Harper Andrews was born in February 2018. She’s a beautiful, healthy baby who loves to watch the 2016 DreamWorks film Trolls and sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Giovanna started her charity “because I had all of these things from the pregnancy center. I had diapers and wipes, and blankets and clothes and a crib. It was more than I could have ever imagined,” Giovanna told me. “I knew that those things were donated by families. And I knew that I would never be able to say thank you.”
“So, when Isabella would grow out of her clothes, I would put them in a box I called my ‘Harper’s heart box’ because Isabella’s middle name is Harper," said Giovanna. “I decided to launch my organization Aug. 4 [of 2018]. And it’s to help new and expecting moms with children 0 to 24 months old get essentials for their babies.”
Giovanna goes to baby-oriented events at Christiana Hospital in Newark where she distributes blankets, baby clothes and information about Harper’s Heart. Last September, her organization distributed supplies at a Wilmington Love block party sponsored by Mayor Mike Purzycki. In January, Harper’s Heart organized its first independent event, a Thousand Diaper Giveaway, followed by a second one in May. The most recent one was scheduled to take place on Aug. 17 at Kingswood Community Center in Wilmington.
“Her life has redirected me to what I’m supposed to do with my life," Giovanna said of her baby. “She and her birth opened my eyes to a real issue that’s going on in my community. ... People from all over reach out to me and say, ‘I am in need of this.’ If I had never gone through this, I would have never known it. I was a typical 21-year-old girl. I didn’t know real struggles.”
And now that she does, Harper’s Heart is here to help.