First Presbyterian Church Fort Dodge


Sara's Community Story

Posted by Sara Hill on

I have been spending 10% of my time each week at Hope Sweet Hope Studios. This is the social enterprise of Gateway to Discovery. Gateway to Discovery is a 2-year residential treatment program for women. They learn job skills at Hope Sweet Hope Studios which is helpful upon their graduation from the program. I spend Thursday afternoons at the studios making paper, stamping greeting cards and bookmarks, and talking with the women. Being creative is out of my comfort zone, and I feel like I am on an even level with the women. I am not coming in as the expert, but simply as a friend on the way. We laugh together and they teach me how to make paper and the steps of the paper-making process. We sometimes sew things and laugh in frustration at tangled bobbins and broken needles.

I am also a member of Chapter NJ of PEO. This is a philanthropic educational organization that promotes women’s education. We have a social twice a year, usually out in the community, and I suggested Hope Sweet Hope for our February social. About 10 of my PEO sisters joined me at Hope Sweet Hope that night. We heard from Janelle Cravens, who is the manager of the studios, one of the women in the program, and from board member Joyce Garton-Natte.

After watching their short informational DVD, Joyce shared about the history of this ministry, Janelle shared about the items that the women make at the studios, and the young woman in the program shared her testimony. At the end of the presentations, one of my PEO sisters said, “I can’t believe I didn’t know this place and this ministry existed in Fort Dodge!” It’s true that most Fort Dodgers do not know about this ministry, but I am hoping to change that by sharing about my involvement with it.

So many of us have a friend or family member who is affected by addiction. I know addiction touches people in my extended family. Caring for a loved one who is addicted to alcohol or gambling or a another substance can be a lonely and frustrating endeavor.  Programs like Gateway to Discovery can help women live sober lives away from the grips of addiction.

In her testimony, the woman in the program shared how she would have never seen herself as “equal” to someone like me. This program is giving her self-confidence to see that we have many things in common even if she is in recovery and I am not. When she said that statement my eyes filled with tears. Without my intentional volunteering at this ministry, I would have never met these women or interacted with them in any other context. It would be easier for me to assume that we do not have much in common or that I am somehow better than them because I am not in recovery. How easily my pride can slip in and tell me lies.

I am grateful that I can now see myself as friends with these women. Indeed we are all equal: women who are trying to better ourselves daily, follow God, and be the best person we can be.

I am glad that my PEO sisters met my Gateway to Discovery friends that evening. I’m grateful they were able to try to make paper with the women and shop at the store. As more people hear about this ministry and can support it with their time and finances, more women will be able to have a safe place to recover.