Hope’s Door offers second chance, not free ridePublished 7:28pm Thursday, February 14, 2013
“Not every story is a success story”; of 33 women admitted to Hope’s Door since 2010, three relapsed.
Patti Helmuth, executive director of the ministry at 204 Spruce St., whose group home for eight has been buttressed this year by two more transitional houses, told Dowagiac Rotary Club Thursday noon at Elks Lodge 889, “We have impacted the lives of 66 kids. At Hope’s Door, even though we serve the mothers, our ultimate concern is the children. The best place for the child is with a healthy, sober mother, but if she can’t maintain that, then that child deserves the opportunity to be raised in a stable environment.”
“Totally supported through the generosity of our community,” Hope’s Door, which takes its name from scripture in Hosea, relies on volunteer staff.
“We have been so fortunate to have been accepted by Cass County,” from churches to businesses such as Imperial Furniture, C. Wimberley and Kemner-Iott Insurance Agency in Cassopolis.
The McLoughlin family donated a 2012 Ford Econoline van.
“We transport back and forth to Cassopolis probably five times a day. Our ladies go to kid visits and therapy,” Helmuth said.
The staff has an MSW (master’s of social work), which allows Hope’s Door to secure interns from Southwestern Michigan College, Andrews University in Berrien Springs and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.
Other volunteers teach knitting or cooking and nutrition.
For two years on Monday afternoons, Helmuth had been visiting incarcerated women at the jail.
“There was such a repeat,” she said. “I saw one lady come back three times because they had nowhere to go except back to the same environment, to their supplier or their abuser, so we set out to have a home where they could have hope for the future. Our home offers support for moms who have made bad choices. We don’t excuse the bad choices or justify them. We do know there is a chance to make better choices.”
The “profile” of a typical woman who comes to Hope’s Door is generational trauma and physical, sexual and emotional abuse in poverty.
“We had one situation where the mother, grandmother and our resident were all arrested in the same drug bust,” Helmuth said. “I hear, ‘They made these choices, let them take care of it,’ but if that’s your norm, how do you know what to do?” so the cycle doesn’t perpetuate itself.
“We provide a structured environment where these ladies are taught life skills,” Helmuth said. “They’re taught self-confidence and to love themselves. They are required to work 10 hours a week at the thrift store, so when they leave us they have a reference and some work training. They are taught to budget, to provide meals, to create menus, to go shopping. We have a lady who comes once a week who is a coupon-clipper. Some of our girls didn’t know what it was to clip a coupon, but if helps on a limited budget. They are taught to get organized by doing a calendar each week. It retrains minds sickened by chemicals and abuse.” They must attend church.
Helmuth said, “We could have three houses. The demand is so greater than we’re able to supply. My waiting list of applications fill a folder, there’s such a need. Mostly they come court-ordered. Most of the ladies in our house are facing prison if they don’t complete this program.”
Women stay six months, a year, a year and a half.
Usually, the end is determined by court timelines where a choice must be made between family reunification or termination of parental rights.
Misty Dotson accompanied Helmuth, who is herself a recovering addict.
“I believe in second chances,” said Dotson, who entered Hope’s Door last February. “This is my second chance with my son,” 10.
“I believe people can change, but they have to have a lot of love and determination, and it takes a community to stand together. We have left turns and right turns in life, bumpy roads that lead to destruction and even bumpier roads that, in the end, lead to instruction. It’s up to us to live the same or find a new way. We may never find perfection … but it’s in us to create a path and to look to our Creator and never go back. Keeping our eyes on roads that have kept us strong and on the right track, like packing a lunch to put in a little backpack and blowing a kiss to a little boy who wants to be a full-grown man with a Spiderman hat … It’s letting go of all you know and trusting God has His hand protecting and molding you and pointing you in the way you are now to go. It’s doing the right thing, even when it hurts.”
“In my last stages of drug addiction, I almost took my life,” said Dotson, who is from Dowagiac and is now reunited with her son, living in one of the transitional apartments and working for McDonald’s with job experience gained at Hope’s Door thrift store downtown, which accepts donations of gently-used clothing and household goods.
Misty is a math test away from her GED.
“I believe I’d be dead now if it wasn’t for this community,” Dotson said. “I just took my son to his first Boy Scout meeting and fun night at school. I’m speaking out because I believe in this message of hope. If we unite and stand together, we can beat this. I vow to do whatever it takes to protect my community and to shine any light I can upon the darkness of isolation and educate people about this.”
“We’re very proud of Misty,” Helmuth said. “I pray over each application I look at. I would never have made it without my relationship with Jesus Christ. We’re not giving people a free ride, but a second chance.”