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Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015

Seeds of hope blossom at Next Step Home

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Resident Emma Hopkins is currently working on a Mother's Day theme cross-stitch.
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty) [Order this photo]
For those who wind up behind bars, jail can be an eye-opening experience. Jails serve as a punishment for crimes, but oftentimes don't treat the underlying cause for incarceration in the first place.

Detox and rehabilitation centers -- for those lucky enough to commit to them before imprisonment -- face the problem of being too short-term. Frequently, residents can find themselves back in their same old circles, facing the same problems and addictions that were supposed to have been treated.

A few years ago, some forward-thinking ladies came together in hopes of helping women who have been disenfranchised by the maze that can be addiction rehabilitation and the revolving door nature of the jailing system.

The cover of the 2012 Next Step Home Mother's Day cards.
(T-G Photo by Mitchell Petty)
These women that founded Next Step Home had been participating in a jail ministry and a Monday evening Bible study with women striving to become sober and stay out of jail.

What they found was a lack of resources or places for them to go for healing.

"There were three times as many resources for men as for women," said Charmagne Farrar, one of the Home's founders. "Women's programs are difficult because of the guilt and lack of trust that these women have. The women would go through these programs and be sober but they had not addressed any of the issues that caused their lives to breakdown."

From the get-go, most of the funding for the Next Step Home has come from the community -- churches, individuals, clubs and organizations. They also have two fundraisers that supply a good portion of the operating costs the Mother's Day card drive in the spring and The Empty Bowls Luncheon in the fall.

The Mother's Day cards are unique items offered for donation to the Next Step Home, and the idea is to make shopping easier and more thoughtful.

"Many times we buy our mothers another gown she puts in a drawer, a flower she must water and care for, or some other item for which she is grateful, but really has no use," explains Next Step co-founder Linda Vannatta. "By giving the money you would spend for a gift as a donation to Next Step Home, your special lady will have the joy of knowing that other are being helped through her."

This year, the theme for the cards is "growing and blooming," and features quotes from some of the Next Step Home women telling how they have developed or "grown" through their stay at the Home. This is fitting with Next Step Home's mission of developing women into better people and most importantly, better mothers.

"For the first time, these women are able to nurture and guide their children," Farrar said. "They are learning together, so to speak, but they are still mothers who worry, pray and cry over their children."

Current Next Step resident Debbie Crowder couldn't be more grateful for the knowledge and skills that she has developed while at the Home. She's gotten closer with God, her son, and even made plans for a future business.

"I owe Next Step so much," Crowder said. "This has given me a firm foundation that is faith-based and drug and alcohol free."

"It's hard to get out of jail with just the clothes on your back," Crowder continued. "You've got to take baby steps -- even crawl. It's like being born again. Once you get out and you're sober, you learn how to deal with emotions that used to drive you to making bad decisions."

Crowder, originally of Winchester, has had such a positive experience at Next Step Home that she plans to make Shelbyville her permanent home. She's also working on plans to begin a business, Debbie D's Cleaning Service.

Her slogan? "Make your next step a clean step."

"I know the people here care about us," Crowder added. "We're really just a family. We have our good and bad days, but we work through it just like sisters would."

What the ladies of Next Step Home are doing can be seen in the numbers. Nationally, transitional homes average a 20 percent success rate. The local program is exceptional, however, with 75 percent of the women they assist finding success after treatment.

"The success rate at Next Step is higher because the residents are given enough time to heal and acquire healthy lifestyles," explains Farrar. "The women are also encouraged to stay connected and support one another upon leaving. The program stresses accountability -- they are urged to learn to serve and give back."

The Home's efforts are attributable to a large number of committed, service-minded women coming together to realize a common mission.

"So many people have joined together to make Next Step Home successful," Vannatta says. "This is not just a project of a few dedicated women, this is a project supported by hundreds of women in our community."

If you'd like to purchase a Mother's Day card from the Next Step Home, you can visit its office at 831 Union St., or get yours at Vance Clay Realty at 401 Elm St. Next Step Home will also hold a yard sale near the end of May. If you'd like to donate items to sell, you can drop them off at the Next Step Home office.

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