Every time Dave and Diane Gamble think about giving up the stewardship of City of Refuge for pregnant women, along comes someone like Melissa Renae Argetsinger.
Pregnant at 17, Melissa said she was unable to stay with her family in Carson City and wouldn't stay with her baby's father.
So she turned up at City of Refuge to prepare for the arrival of Caden Charles Lee Hillman who was born Aug. 21 at Carson-Tahoe Hospital.
From Belize to Battle Mountain, pregnant girls and women have found their way to City of Refuge for the past 14 years.
The youngest mom was 13, the oldest 50.
The Gambles estimate 60 babies have been born to Refuge moms staying at the big house tucked in the Pine Nut Mountains a good 10 miles from town.
The couple began offering shelter to pregnant girls at their home in Genoa. They outgrew that residence and acquired 40 acres in the Pine Nuts from Stoddard and Jewel Jacobsen.
For a while, City of Refuge was a double-wide trailer on the property.
But it was a haven for girls and women who were pregnant and alone or matched up with unreliable or dangerous boyfriends and husbands.
Through donations and fund-raising, a house was built to accommodate eight moms and house parents.
A second house is going up on the property to fulfill a need the Gambles saw when some of the new moms left and returned to their dangerous lifestyles.
"That was our real weakness," Diane Gamble said. "They had nowhere to go except back to where they came from. The girls would go back to drugs, and it would break our hearts."
With the new house, City of Refuge will accommodate the moms and their infants, any other children the women might have and a long-held dream of the Gambles to provide foster care.
There is a strong spiritual side to City of Refuge; the name comes from a Bible reference. For many of the girls, it's their first exposure to a faith-based life.
Offered as an alternative to abortion and life on the streets, the girls are encouraged to place their babies up for adoption.
"The girls wouldn't be here if they were squared away enough to support a child," Dave Gamble said.
But it's up to the mom to decide. Some, like Melissa, choose to keep their babies.
Some have been in trouble most of their lives, and the Gambles estimated at least 80 percent have been abusing alcohol and drugs.
They are referred by juvenile probation departments, pregnancy crisis centers and adoption agencies.
"Miraculously, the babies are OK," Gamble said.
Every mom plants a tree in a grove on the property, and each baby gets a page in a photo album.
Rules are enforced at City of Refuge - absolutely no drugs or alcohol, visitors are tested as well. The women's day includes schoolwork through an arrangement with Mount Sierra Christian Academy to help the moms earn their high school diplomas and GEDs.
They hold a graduation - complete with caps and gowns - for each girl who completes her coursework.
n Sheila Gardner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 782-5121, ext. 214.