Perry’s Grace Village helping homeless women

Sun News correspondentApril 2, 2014 

Larry Wood is the director of Grace Village, a facility for homeless women that provides help such as classes on housekeeping, cooking and basic personal finances.

MICHAEL W. PANNELL — Special to The Sun News

  • Grace Village

    Address: 2097 U.S. 41 S, Perry
    Phone: 478-224-1688
    Leadership: Larry Wood, director
    Website: www.perryvolunteeroutreach.org/grace-village

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, who’s been involved with Grace Village since it opened in 2010 and with Perry Volunteer Outreach for nine years, is now the program’s 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 it’s 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 they’re homeless but because they’ve exhausted the help and welcome of family and friends. He said 95 percent of residents’ issues involve drugs.

“We’re not a full-fledged, licensed addiction treatment center,” he said. “Our sister program here, Abba House, is. We’re 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 doesn’t work or a new path? You can’t 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 don’t 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 village’s 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 there’s also a path of life grounded in the word and presence of God,” he said. “We can help there, too. Since Adam and Eve, we’ve 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 don’t cram anything down anyone’s throat, but we set a table before the women and let them know if they want to feast on God’s love, they’re welcome.”

Wood said one woman came to Grace Village saying she’d tried everything else; she needed to try God.

“It’s sad we make God the last resort, but that’s how grace is -- God is willing to be our last resort,” he said. “God sets grace before us, and though we don’t deserve it, all we have to do is take it. Simple as that. So many step into addictive behaviors and destructive ways and don’t 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 mwpannell@gmail.com.

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