A large gathering of local supporters from around the community came out Tuesday night for Foundation House Ministries’ fifth annual Celebration Banquet which observed not only the organization’s continued success, but also highlighted a program graduate’s success story.
Foundation House Ministries is a maternity home and training program that equips pregnant and parenting mothers in difficult situations by teaching them to become effective, stable and often single parents.
In Bradley County, 76 percent of single parents are living at poverty level, according to Foundation House Executive Director Suzanne Burns.
There are two types of client: those living in the Foundation House and those who are not residential.
Foundation House has been providing support for mothers for five years.
“We work with these women and give a series of assessments to figure out what brought them to the situation they’re currently in, what they need to move forward and then we help them achieve those goals,” Burns said.
Aid can come through job readiness, transportation, getting to the doctor, GED classes, counseling and a variety of other support services.
According to Burns, 2018 was a very good year. Their major accomplishments include expanding trauma training to a national level, individual graduate successes, the opening of Healing Springs Gifts, moving into a house that’s three times larger than the previous one and partnering with the court system.
“Sometimes these women have family, but their family doesn’t foster the positive environment it should, while others come to us with no family at all,” Burns added.
Women comes to Foundation House Ministries from foster care, homeless shelters, jails, the court system and several other avenues. Burns added how it doesn’t matter where they come from, what matters is why they came.
A big question to ask the women is if they’re just seeking another temporary handout, or if they’re genuinely desiring to change and improve their lives.
There are only three staff members at Foundation House, but the entire staff and all interns are trauma trained, and well-equipped to help in whatever ways they can.
One method that teaches these women personal responsibility is Healing Springs Gifts, which is a company run by Foundation House that teaches the women how to make body butter, lotion, bath bombs, sugar scrubs and various other personal care products.
Through Healing Springs, the women receive paid job training and sustainable skills. The training itself includes business management, marketing, customer service, basic accounting and inventory management. Not only do they learn how to make the products, but also learn to sell them at various local craft fairs.
As a testament to the program, seven of the organization’s graduates have obtained jobs; two earned GEDs; and four families have been reunited.
According to Burns, 70 percent of the women who come to Foundation House Ministries do not have a high school diploma or GED.
“What employer is going to take you on? It’s difficult to give these girls a living wage because they frankly don’t deserve it when they first come in our doors,” Burns said.
One issue the organization deals with fairly regularly is the basic survival mindset of the women, who may feel helpless and will go out and get a new boyfriend — who may not treat them well and may do/sell drugs — just because he helps pay for things.
A personal success story was then highlighted, that of Kayla Jones, who graduated from the program in November 2018 and has completely reshaped her life from where it once was.
When she came to Foundation House Ministries, Jones had 13 felony convictions she’d accumulated over 10 years. She initially came from drug court, and was given the option of joining the organization or going to prison.
“I was bounced around from place to place. I didn’t really have anywhere to go before Foundation House, and there were some nights when I just wandered the streets and had nowhere to lay my head,” Jones said.
Her father is currently in prison for drugs, with her mother having passed away from lung cancer when Jones was 16. When Jones was born, her mother was high, which made Jones addicted to crack as a baby.
“It was very weird at first. I didn’t really know what a family looked like, and having dinner the first night at Foundation House was so awkward because I didn’t know that families are supposed to sit down together to have dinner. I didn’t know what holidays were like, and I didn’t know how to act like a lady,” Jones added.
Having a large amount of anger built up within her over the years, Jones went through various therapy courses and says she can now control her anger by walking away and speaking with God whenever she gets angry.
She believes the most important thing she received from Foundation House Ministries is learning to embrace life, because even though she no longer lives in the house, Jones will still text Burns whenever she needs help or needs someone to talk with.
While initially on the WIC (food stamps) program, Jones has since gotten a new job that pays significantly more than her previous role at McDonalds and is no longer on government assistance. She was also happy to announce how April will mark two years of her being clean from drugs.
“Foundation House helped me and didn’t make me leave. I left when I felt ready and still stay in contact. My proudest accomplishment from my time there is becoming who I am now. I don’t want people to judge me for my past, but just look at me now,” Jones said.
Jones has two daughters, one of which was at the banquet and led the audience in the song “Jesus Loves Me.”
Following a donation opportunity and a musical performance, a benediction was given and the evening was concluded.
According to Burns, Foundation House Ministries needs support to continue its good work. That support can be through donations, increased monthly supporters, community awareness, having volunteers and board members dedicated to making a difference in a mom’s life and transitional housing options.
Burns encouraged everyone to volunteer with the organization, or even come tour their office, as they’re happy to show you around and show you all the good they do as well.
The organization can be reached at 423-464-5351 or by following it on Facebook. You can also sign up for its monthly newsletter.
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