Women in crisis have a safe haven – one that provides more than just support – in A Door of Hope, a non-profit organization, now the owners of a 6,000-square-foot building that could ultimately house as many as 12 women going through a challenging time in their lives.

Almost five years old, A Door of Hope had previously been housed at the Dixon Medical Center with no opportunity for temporary housing.

“Our vision has always been to open a residential program for women and we’ll be able to do that here,” said founder and president Kristin Maddox.

When the organization is done renovating the building, she said private apartment-like quarters able to house four women will be included. Maddox hopes to continue to expand the residential capabilities to allow for 12 women to be able to live in the building until they can become independent.

The building has two stories and for now, the organization is only using the bottom floor for its many services under the umbrella of its Women’s Hope Center, which provides free services like individual and group counseling, a clothing pantry and a plethora of products new babies need, including formula, diapers and clothing.

“The services we offer now include pregnancy testing, giving women in drug court programs a way to get credit by volunteering at the center, verification they need to qualify for Medicaid or WIC (Women, Infants and Children, a state-run program that is similar to food stamps but restricted to the needs of infants),” Maddox said.

“When we’re done with the building, we’ll also be able to provide ultrasound scans,” she said, continuing most of those services are new for the organization. “These are all things we weren’t able to do before.”

The number of women the center assists is hard to pinpoint, Maddox said, for a number of reasons. While the latest numbers of women who came to the center last year are unavailable yet, almost 350 came to A Door of Hope for help of some sort in 2015.

“It’s not really about the numbers, it’s more about the effectiveness of the care they receive,” she said. “The brand new building gives us an opportunity to get off on the right foot, to grow slowly and we do it properly.”

“We also serve the women at the Livingston Parish Prison, which has two dormitories that hold 100 each and we work with many of them,” Maddox said. “When we go in there we may only have 20 women who actually join the group when we visit the prison, but many come to us after their release and say they heard us talking to the other women and that’s why they’re here.”

The women come to A Door of Hope for many reasons, she said. They come because of an unplanned pregnancy, from abusive relationships to drug problems.

For Maddox, founding A Door of Hope was the result of her own unplanned pregnancy. She considered an abortion – a decision she’s happy she didn’t make then – and walked into what she thought was a clinic but was, in fact, a ministry where she was convinced to go through with her pregnancy.

“I’m grateful that I did not have the abortion,” Maddox said. “I now have a 20-year-old daughter who is attending college with the intention of becoming a doctor.”

She said her story has been told many times, but provided information on one of the center’s success stories, Hannah Hernandez. “She has a powerful testimony,” Maddox said.

“She was coming out of just a desperate situation,” she continued. “She was battling depression and had thoughts of suicide, but her experience with A Door of Hope completely turned her life around.”

“I hated myself,” Hernandez said, whose problems began when she was 13. After her time with A Door of Hope, she now leads the worship at her church and sings solo at services.

“I thought that no one cared about me even though that was the farthest thing from the truth,” she said. “I felt like I could never be good enough and that I could never live up to anyone’s expectations.”

Despite Hernandez’s devotion to her religion now, as a teenage she “wasn’t even sure if there even was a God,” believing that if there was, “He must not have loved me very much because he was letting me hate myself more than anything in the world.”

In the beginning, she coped by writing songs about her struggle and for a while, it helped, but in April 2015, she attempted suicide and was sent to a mental institution. Two days later, she accepted Christ as her savior.

“I realized that I couldn’t fight on my own and that I needed to allow God to work in my life instead of pushing Him away,” Hernandez said.

After her release from the mental institution, she participated in A Door of Hope’s Camp Hope, where she was surrounded by other young women who had fought the same demons she had. The women and counselors she came to know through Camp Hope are still part of her recovery process.

Camp Hope provided Hernandez with “the kind of peace that only comes from having a relationship with Jesus.” She stays in touch with the women with whom she became close. “They help me to stay strong in my faith.”

The banquet is set for Saturday, Mar. 25, at North Park on Eden Church Road. There is no charge, Maddox said, but an offering will be requested afterward.

“We ask for people to either give a one-time donation or partner with us on a monthly basis,” she said. “This is our only fundraising event for the entire year so it’s a big deal.”

“We probably have close to 200 people signed up to come now and the hall has a capacity of 400 but we’d be happy if we get 300 to attend,” Maddox said.

In addition to donations or pledges made after the banquet, businesses sponsor entire tables, she continued.

“In exchange, we promote their businesses with ads in the program and for businesses that donate enough, we also will run an ad in our annual publication ‘Voices of Hope,’” Maddox said.

Anyone planning to attend the banquet will have to register through the organization’s website by entering “powerofhope2017.” Pledges before or after the banquet can be made on A Door of Hope’s website at www.adoorofhopela.com or with a credit/debit card over the phone at (225) 686-7747.

“Thank you in advance for your continued support,” Maddox said. “This has been a dream since the inception of the ministry. Thank you for helping make this dream a reality. Thank you for responding to their cries.”

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Tommy Comeaux is the Lifestyle editor at The Livingston Parish News. He can be reached via email at TommyComeaux@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @tommycomeaux.

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