(WGHP) — As a group of kids enjoys a day in the strawberry patch, they have no idea of the transformations taking place on that same farm.
The 110-acre farm Freedom House runs has eight acres of strawberries and a few others where they have blueberries, blackberries and cut flowers.
The idea works on several levels: it helps give the women in the Freedom House recovery program some good work to do, it is another source of revenue to help build homes for the women and it helps spread the word of what is as much ministry as it is an addiction recovery program.
“The point really is to get families and people out here to share what the Lord is doing in the hearts of the moms that are in our program,” said Stephen Farrell, director of operations at Freedom House.
It is an organization that Ann Reilly started in 2006. She was a social worker who specialized in both working with children and substance abuse. She came to realize that the best way to help a child was to get the mother’s life back on track.
For the first decade or so, Freedom House was just that: a house in Greensboro that could take three women in at a time. The big difference with their program was that it was the only one that allowed the women to have their children live with them on-site.
Combining that with tough love, counseling and a devotion to faith and each other, they found phenomenal success.
“The national average is about 25 to 30%, and we’re seeing upwards of 90% of mothers reuniting with their children out of foster care permanently,” Farrell said.
The program is long by counseling standards. It’s at least a year for most participants, and it’s not one-size-fits-all.
“The goals they set for each level are things that they talk about in counseling or in group therapy and are tailored to the individual,” said Jenna Carson of Freedom House.
For Dana McBride who is close to graduating, it was a lifesaver.
“My situation got really bad,” McBride said. “My family had disowned me, and I was in and out of jail. And that’s when I hit my breaking point when my family trespassed me from their home. That’s when I knew…I got to do something different.”
She chose Freedom House specifically because she could have her two children there at times.
“I’m so proud of myself and how far I’ve come and the dedication,” McBride said. “I’ve never finished anything. I’ve started things and then quit or just got low self-esteem and just thought I wasn’t good enough.”
Like the others, she has put in her hours of work.
“They’ll be working on the farm in the first level of the program, the first few months that they’re here on the farm…then they’ll move to our thrift stores,” Farrell said.
The thrift stores are key not just for the working skills they teach, but they also account for about 70% of Freedom House’s revenue.
They use the revenue to not only run the program each year but to meet their goal of raising enough to build one new house each year on the farm.
The houses are intimate and can hold from three to six women and their children at a time.
You can see more about Freedom House in this edition of the Buckley Report.