Laughter and tears abounding the white two-story abode in Southwest Decatur as the women discussed their hopes and dreams — of award a job, active in a home and caring for their sons and daughters.
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Kenya Congress understands those dreams intimately.
“Eight years ago, I was sleeping in my car in advanced of someone’s house. My kids were sleeping inside. We, essentially, were homeless. As difficult as that was, I acknowledge God that I was in that position. If I wasn’t in that bearings I wouldn’t be accomplishing what I’m accomplishing today,” Congress said.
Last month, Congress, a above affiliate of the abandoned community, opened Home of Grace, a anchorage for women and children. Currently, eight women and accouchement from beyond arctic Alabama alive at the shelter.
Walking through the four-bed, three-bath home outfitted with new floors, carpet, countertops, appliances, sinks and toilets, Congress talked absurdly about the nonprofit organization’s abeyant impact.
“Many women will appear actuality cerebration they don’t apperceive their abutting step. I don’t apperceive it either, but we can amount it out together. We will acquisition them a job and advise them about extenuative money. We will change lives. It’s important to animate somebody, but not from the standpoint of anticipation and putting down,” Congress said.
To empower and animate the women financially, spiritually and emotionally, Congress created a three- to six-month program. She talks with them about their passions, connects them with administration and career centers and offers classes on the Bible, money administration and advantageous hurts, habits and hang-ups.
“I appetite the women to leave actuality arrogant and financially stable,” Congress said. “Our allegorical ballad is Hebrews 4:16: ‘Come angrily to the head of adroitness that we may access benevolence and acquisition adroitness to advice in time of need.’ Adroitness is what these women need. Adroitness is a new start. God gives us that adroitness circadian so we accept a new alpha daily. Even if addition messes up today, there is still tomorrow.”
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That bulletin of absolution and additional affairs is demography authority in the women at Home of Grace.
“When I get out, afterwards I get my activity in order, I appetite to appear aback actuality and be allotment of this ministry. I appetite to advise classes so that I can advice added women like I am actuality helped,” Ashley Shelton said.
Twelve canicule ago, Shelton, 31, of Cullman, absolved through the aperture of Home of Grace. A acquaintance in Decatur, who did not apperceive Congress, but knew of Home of Grace, affiliated Shelton with the refuge.
“I came actuality to get on my anxiety so I could get my kids back. My mom has aegis of my kids and my sister’s kids and she aloof absent her job. She is struggling. I charge to get to a abode area I can advice out. I aloof got on aliment stamps and got a job. Slowly, day by day, I’m accepting my activity aback together,” Shelton said. “I don’t apperceive how I would do it after Home of Grace.”
Word of the grassroots admiral is spreading. Most of the residents, like Shelton, begin out about the apartment through chat of mouth.
“Everywhere I go, anybody knows about Home of Grace. I acknowledgment Home of Adroitness to anybody I meet. I appetite added bodies to be excited. I appetite addition abroad to bolt assimilate the eyes and do article abroad aloof like it. Working together, we can accomplish a change,” Congress said.
Congress’ captivation with the abandoned association began simply — by accustomed affliction bales in her car. That led to Congress, with her husband’s acceding and support, accouterment acting apartment to individuals in their home.
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“There was a adult we knew from church. She was abandoned and couldn’t booty her son to Tennessee Valley Outreach with her, so we took her son in. Six months later, the aforementioned affair happened with a girl. It aloof acquainted right, like it was what we were declared to do,” Congress said.
Three years ago, Congress began volunteering consistently with a Decatur-based admiral that feeds and holds Bible studies for the homeless. The acquaintance opened her eyes.
“Everyone has a story. Yes, some bodies that are abandoned appetite to be homeless. Added people, though, accept gone through a annulment or absent a job and they accept been put in a pit so abysmal that they don’t apperceive how to get out. They charge addition to ability bottomward and get them and appearance them a way up,” Congress said.
For years, Congress talked about aperture a amplitude for women and children. Last summer, aggressive by a abbey appointment and her husband, Anthony Congress, she took action.
“At the appointment I kept hearing, ‘If you don’t footfall out and actuate your faith, again God is not activity to anticipate you are serious.’ My bedmate had been audition about my affairs for years. He said, ‘If you don’t get up Monday and do it, again don’t allocution about it anymore,’ ” Congress said.
The Monday afterward the conference, Congress aloof the Home of Adroitness name, completed the accessories of assimilation and filed for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. To pay for the start-up costs, Congress, for the aboriginal time in eight years, got a job. She formed additional about-face at Steelcase in Athens, generally missing her children’s activities.
With a actual bound assets and a ambiguous abstraction of the blazon of anatomy she wanted, Congress started attractive for sites. She talked with a agent with Advantage Acreage Management. He told her he knew of the absolute amplitude and led her to a white two-story house. Inside, accurate floors and apartment with missing walls greeted Congress.
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“We airing in the abode and he’s like, ‘I aloof see the vision.’ I’m attractive and I’m like, I don’t see what you see,” Congress said. “I got in the car and alleged my bedmate and said, ‘So, he’s crazy, he took me to this abode and there’s like no walls, annihilation in there.’ My husband’s like, ‘He sees what you don’t see, so that is good.’ ”
The agent larboard the key with Congress. She visited the amplitude four or bristles times a day every day, sat on the broiler and absurd the space’s potential. While Congress started fundraising in advanced of the Dollar General, Shoe Carnival and on artery corners in Huntsville, the acreage aggregation laid new carpet, anchored the floors, erected walls and corrective the rooms.
Support for Congress’ mission continued to her church, Canaan Association Christian Church, and her neighbors. One neighbor, Tim Garland, co-pastor of Adroitness Fellowship Church, offered to sponsor the transformation of a barn into a ancestors allowance and office.
At capacity, the home will be able to abode 12 residents. Along with the home, Congress hopes to accessible a austerity store, which will abutment the admiral financially and actualize jobs for the women.
“I’m so aflame about this. My adoration is that the women will grow, acquisition backbone and see God and not me. God is the one allowance them, accouterment the jobs and the food. It’s annihilation I’m doing. I wouldn’t accept a eyes to absorb my own money on added people. It’s all God,” Congress said.
For added advice on Home of Adroitness or how to get involved, appointment home-of-grace.org.
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