House of Hope gets a foundation

HERSEY — The Hersey House of Hope began as a dream, and is fast becoming a reality, thanks to a couple of ladies who had faith enough to believe it could happen, and a whole lot of others who are determined it will.

Nina Brown and Carol McKernan got involved in a jail ministry at the Osceola County Jail some time ago, hoping they could change some lives. They did. Among them, their very own.

They remember many of the women they met in jail came to spend time with them in a Bible study, not necessarily wanting to hear about God or study the Bible, but to get out of their cell. Some of those ladies admit Nina and Carol were absolutely right.

In some instances, it took a second trip back, or a third or more, before they finally believed maybe, just maybe, listening a bit more and applying what they heard could make a difference in their own lives.

But, all too often, once out, the women found they had no place to go. They couldn’t go home, because they had tried that too many times, and the circumstances some went back to had not changed, and their own old behaviors in handling, or mishandling what was going on, got them right back in jail.

Other times, some women returned to abusive relationships, “thinking this time it’s gonna be different,” and “if I just shut up and behave and don’t stir anything, everything will be OK.” Yet it didn’t change, it wasn’t okay. And back they went. If they had been the abuser, it wasn’t long until they were again.

Still others traded the Bible for a bottle or tossed the Bible in the trash. It was a “sort of a get-out-of-jail card.”

Once out, there was no place to go. And so it was time and again.

Nina and Carol became determined to find a way to help the ones who were willing to work hard and maintain a different way of life. It wouldn’t be a free card, but rather an opportunity to not just talk the talk, but walk the walk.

Nina and Carol would walk beside them. So would the God those two women introduced them to, the God who could forgive and lead them to a different way of life.

And so it was that the two women shared their hope. And for a time even their own homes to give women coming out of the Osceola County Jail a second chance, or even a third.

The faith of Nina and Carol grew and soon included Jim Crawford, sheriff of Osceola County, who agreed to sit on the board for what was to some day be the Hersey House of Hope. And others came on board to do likewise.

So the belief that something could happen began to grow, and they continued to ask the women they took Bibles to and prayed with each week at the jail what they needed in order to change their lives. Nina remembers some said it was a place to live. Others said a safe place. Still others needed clothing or a chance to see children again.

Nina and Carol have been trying to get something locally where the women could come and stay after they are released from jail. That safe place. Then they found it.

They had already started on their dream of a House of Hope four or five years ago, “but it’s a long process becoming a non-profit. That has happened. So then came an opportunity to buy a doublewide, and it happened. Then came the need for permits to drill a well, “and that, too, takes time,” she explained, “but now we’re on a roll. This spring we can move the doublewide to a place just up the road, and then, we can watch as the Hersey House of Hope becomes a reality.”

Read more next week about the roll they are on, and a recent benefit held locally guaranteed to help keep that hope a rollin’.