Magdalene House to open doors as a safe place for women to turn their lives around

A Look Ahead: Becky Choate, president of the board of directors for Magdalene House, presents an image of the house during the Rotary Club meeting Dec. 9. Choate said the house will be completed and accept applications after the new year.
A Look Ahead: Becky Choate, president of the board of directors for Magdalene House, presents an image of the house during the Rotary Club meeting Dec. 9. Choate said the house will be completed and accept applications after the new year.

Editor’s note: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). This story is part of a series of articles highlighting the programs funded, at least in part, with those grants.

Pulling yourself out of a bad situation can be difficult, especially if you lack the support system, money, education and other resources needed to get your life back on track.

For women willing to commit to their program, the Magdalene House in El Dorado will offer those resources. Becky Choate said the organization, which is modeling itself off of Thistle Farms in Nashville (previously known as Magdalene House), is getting ready to open in 2020. Those doors will open thanks to a $21,300 SHARE Foundation VIP grant.

“We’ve been given a house and done some very minor renovations,” she said. “The grant will enable us to open our doors. We’re going to interview for our staff position, which will probably be part-time position to start with. After we have everything in place, we’ll start interviewing potential clients for the residency program.”

The two-year program will give up to six womThe two-year program will give up to six women a place to live, help them find employment, connect them with educational opportunities and focus on improving their physical and mental health. The program is intended to help women who have suffered abuse, violence and betrayal on the most intimate level, which can often lead to drug addiction, homelessness and other life-altering situations, according to a SHARE Foundation press release. Choate said Magdalene House will begin with two open positions in the house.

“The applications will go online after the first of the year for the residency,” she said. “It’s a two-year commitment — it’s not a halfway house. We take them in and love them like they’re our own children. They’ll be engaged with their education, with their physical health, everything will be taken care of. We want them to feel loved. After two years, we still hope for them to be part of our program in a mentorship capacity.”

There are 50 or so Magdalene Houses around the country, but Choate said the nonprofits take different forms with different goals in mind. The house in El Dorado will be the second one open in Arkansas.

“We’re hoping our community will open their arms to them and help them find employment,” Choate said. “We want these women to be able to go back into society, to give them back their dignity and be productive adults. We will be an advocate for them, to help them reunite with their families.”

For the first 90 days of the program, the focus is on mental, emotional and physical healing. After the women are employed, they will deposit a portion of their paycheck into a savings account, which the Magdalene House will match up to a certain amount. That way, when they graduate, they’ll have a nest egg for an apartment, a car down payment, etc., Choate explained. Magdalene House will take referrals from Judge Hamilton Singleton’s drug court, Turning Point and the Union County jail, as well as direct applications.

Choate noted that the women will not pay any bills, but are responsible for keeping the house clean and doing their own cooking.

“They don’t have to pay a dime to live here, it’s a nice, warm, clean place,” she said. “They do have to take care of the house; they will not be babied, but they will be given so much in the way of accommodations. We’re so overwhelmed to have SHARE Foundation support. We live in such a giving community.”

For more information, visit lovehealseldo.org.

• About the grants: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). The grants, totaling $324,371, are the organization’s third round of VIP grants and 32nd round of grant awards overall. With the grant announcement, the SHARE Foundation has now given more than $8 million in grants and strategic initiatives to 91 different nonprofits operating in Union County, according to a press release from the organization. The grants fund items including operations, specific programs, software purchases and more.

SHARE’s VIP program began in 2018 and focuses on six areas: mentoring, re-entry, neighborhood watches/clean neighborhoods, parenting/life skills, jobs/targeted education, and mental health/substance and drug abuse.

For more details on the SHARE Foundation, visit the website at sharefoundation.com.

The foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan, its strategies and intended outcomes are available to review. Contact Debbie Watts, vice president of community impact at SHARE Foundation, at 870-881-9015 for more information or to get involved.

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