After many years, Norma’s Nest is here

Published 12:03 am Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some 29 years ago, Norma McLelland heard from God telling her to minister to a young woman in the Covington County Jail who was accused of murder.

A week later, McLelland introduced Pennye Anderson to the jail ministry, and it was then the seed of what is now Norma’s Nest was planted.

“I don’t know what happened to that lady, but she’s how this got started,” Anderson said. “Then, a young lady came to me and said she was getting out of jail the next day, and she was scared because she didn’t know what to do, didn’t know where to go, and she was afraid she’d go back to her old drug friends.”

Enter Andalusia’s Mavene Nichols, who also told a similar story of a young woman who was prepared to get into a fight to prevent being released from jail. Nichols, who has volunteered with the jail ministry for more than 12 years, most recently retired from the Andalusia Public Library.

“Mavene said the girl told her she was going to do it as soon as Bible school was over,” Anderson said. “She said she had nowhere to go and if she got into a fight they’d keep her and at least she’d have room and board.

“Those two conversations quickly told outside of the jail, and it was laid on our hearts – we got it, Lord, a transition home,” she said.

After six years of prayer, a board of directors was in place, and currently serving are Leroy Cole, Nichols, Teresa Ward, Todd Sasser, Anderson and Dianne Gray. Through donations and “the will of God,” the group has purchased – and paid for – a home on Snowden Drive, the now physical location of Norma’s Nest. It’s outfitted for sleeping space for four women, plus the housemother, a living room area, kitchen, dining room, two baths and a study, complete with two computers. There, the women will get the skills needed to re-enter the world, ranging from financial classes to Bible study and all points in between.

Both Anderson and Nichols commended McLelland for making that first step and reaching out to the women in jail.

“There’s two reasons this outgrowth of the jail ministry is named ‘Norma’s Nest’,” Anderson said. “One, Norma not only obeyed God, but she also faced her fear that day when she went to that jail; and two, she wouldn’t want a building named after her.”

-Stephanie Nelson