For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Before the divorce I had a healthy savings account and a very satisfactory life. Within a few years after the divorce the savings account was gone. I resorted to credit cards to finance things like a replacement hot water heater and car repair problems. Though I tried to spend carefully, the money kept flowing out faster than it was coming in.
I was fortunate though. I had a regular income, family, and friends who were there to provide a safety net through those frightening days. Plus, my children were grown and married and more than able to fend for themselves. Now, over a decade later, I am remarried, again have money in the bank, and more coming in than going out most months.
Gracewood is a place for women who – for a variety of reasons – need a safety net under them for a while to regain control of their lives. Single mothers who never thought they’d be on their own can easily find themselves facing a mountain of debt and other problems they are ill-equipped to face alone.
At Gracewood mothers and their children live together with other women and children in similar circumstances. Each family has a private room, including a private bathroom and closet. Each family has their own refrigerator in the enormous kitchen. Families share a computer room, lounge area, playground area, laundry area, and dining room.
Each community home includes a live-in trained staff person who provides whatever encouragement and coaching is needed to help the women as they regain their confidence, financial footing, and education if needed. Free professional counseling helps women and children alike heal from whatever life challenge made them eligible for such accommodations.
Gracewood, a 501c3 ministry, is modeled after the Family Care Program started at the Round Rock Texas Baptist Children’s Home, in 1979. The goal of the program is to rescue single mothers and their children from poverty and the threat of homelessness by providing home, hope and healing through residential care with access to career and education opportunities. Some women come without even a high school diploma. Others have a master’s level education, but encountered storms they could not weather on their own.
The ministry is heavily underwritten by generous donations from individuals, churches, and foundations. Residents do pay a small fee each month and are required to save a third of whatever income they are earning while living at Gracewood. Each women participates in programming that includes financial education (Dave Ramsey materials) and counseling to address the issues than rendered them eligible for the assistance.
Gracewood has a group home in Meyerland and Spring Branch. The women who live in either of these places really do understand what other women have been through. This mutual understanding and support builds confidence to put a new plan in place. When a mother doesn’t have to worry about the electricity or water being turned off, she can better focus on her children’s needs. This in turn helps the children do better in school, which increases their chances of doing well when they’re adults.
Too often we blame victims for their setbacks, naively believing what happened to them would never happen to us. At Gracewood blame is put aside in favor of providing a clean, pleasant, stable place to live – surrounded by people who are pulling for each resident.
It was encouraging to see such a warm, welcoming place for women who need a new place to call home. Whatever our circumstances today – be they wonderful or truly devastating – they can and will change tomorrow. At Gracewood the odds are in favor of them changing for the better.