PERRY -- When residents think of Grace Village, Larry Wood hopes they remember it as a place of refuge where they were able to sit down, be at peace, learn a few things and come up with a plan for their future.
Grace Village, located just south of Perry, is a 24-unit facility for homeless women operated by Perry Volunteer Outreach.
Wood, whos been involved with Grace Village since it opened in 2010 and with Perry Volunteer Outreach for nine years, is now the programs director.
We not only offer food and shelter but try to be a refuge from the crises in their lives, he said. The sad part is its not just the situation people are in but a combination of the bad circumstances and poor choices that brought them there. Our program provides a place to stay and a period of time to come up with a plan for their life.
Wood said most women at Grace Village are coming out of prison or are on probation. Others find the program through friends or family. Most are there not just because theyre homeless but because theyve exhausted the help and welcome of family and friends. He said 95 percent of residents issues involve drugs.
Were not a full-fledged, licensed addiction treatment center, he said. Our sister program here, Abba House, is. Were more of a transitional program that incorporates a lot of the same things. We deal more with the problems that got them in a bad spot.
To that end, Grace Village provides life-skill classes including housekeeping, cooking, basic personal finances, hygiene and health care, interpersonal skills and computer skills. The women work on restoring broken relationships, goal-setting, ethics, self-discipline and how to transition successfully into community life.
When someone comes here, we tell them they have three questions to answer, Wood said. First, where am I? They need to realize what brought them to the place they are -- what choices caused them to be left with no one to go to or depend on.
Second is, where am I going? Is it the old way that doesnt work or a new path? You cant really help someone if they just want the old way. If they want a new path, we can help.
Wood said the third question is about getting from where they are to where they want to be. He said the women have spent a lifetime getting where they dont want to be, and the counselors, volunteers and activities at Grace Village are geared toward helping them learn how to get somewhere better. He said it takes time and effort, but at least at the end of the villages basic 90-day stay women have greater skills and a plan. They know what they need to do next.
But Wood said Grace Village is committed to offering more.
We offer skills and ideas, but theres also a path of life grounded in the word and presence of God, he said. We can help there, too. Since Adam and Eve, weve all wanted to choose our own destructive path and told God to leave us alone, but God keeps after us with what John 10:10 calls abundant life. We dont cram anything down anyones throat, but we set a table before the women and let them know if they want to feast on Gods love, theyre welcome.
Wood said one woman came to Grace Village saying shed tried everything else; she needed to try God.
Its sad we make God the last resort, but thats how grace is -- God is willing to be our last resort, he said. God sets grace before us, and though we dont deserve it, all we have to do is take it. Simple as that. So many step into addictive behaviors and destructive ways and dont know how to get out. We offer training for everyday tasks, but the highest priority is to surround them with the compassion of Christ and let them know that no matter how crushing their challenges of life are, God loves them, cares for them and counts each of them as treasures.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.