Opportunity House saved lives

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, September 4, 2013

It was not something I planned to do. The truth is I kind of fell into the job by accident — the accident of not attending a board meeting.

When my friend asked me to become a board member for the new program, I said yes. It was struggling to get going, and since I knew it was a worthwhile endeavor, I decided to see if there was anything I could contribute.

So, I agreed to be on the board. Unfortunately, I had another commitment the night I was going to attend my first meeting.

The next morning I met my friend in the hall at work.

“Congratulations,” he said.

“Why?” I said. “What did I do?”

“You are the new president,” he said.

“The new president of what,” I said.

“You are the new president of Opportunity House,” he said. “We elected you last night at the meeting.”

That is how I got involved with the domestic violence program in Opp. The beginnings were humble and we stumbled through getting the shelter open and finding funds to keep the doors open.

I remember how excited everyone was when we got funding that allowed us to purchase the property that housed the shelter. We knew the county needed what Opportunity House offered, and being able to give women and their children a safe place to stay while they put their lives back together was a wonderful thing.

Still, every year funding was a struggle, and the board members, the director and the employees held their collective breath waiting to hear if the state grant and one from the local foundation came through. When they did we let out a sigh of relief knowing the doors were open for another year.

Over the years, I heard many stories from those who took advantage of what Opportunity House offered. The services provided by this program changed lives.

After 10 years, I moved out of the job of board president, but remained a board member a while longer. Then feeling I’d done all I could do, and knowing the program was in good hands, I stepped down from the board.

I still read stories about Opportunity House when they appeared in the paper and I taught a couple of free yoga classes for the residents, an experience that reinforced my understanding of what this program provided for those who so desperately needed it.

So, it was with much disappointment that I read about the shelter closing and the program ending. It was hard to pass the shelter and see the “For Sale” sign in the front yard.

I read that the director is hoping for a miracle that allows them to keep the shelter open. For the sake of the domestic violence victims in this area, I hope there is a miracle. If there isn’t and Covington County loses its domestic violence program, it is a sad thing for those victims who now must seek safety in Dothan or Montgomery, something that is impossible for many of them.

This county was lucky to have a program like this and those who gave so much to keep it going deserve a big thank you. There were the board members who gave their time, and the directors who worked so hard to keep things running smoothly. The employees who should be proud of what they contributed because not only did they do their jobs, they also opened their hearts to these women and children.

Law enforcement people, those in the court system, the local churches and clubs, all of those who supported Opportunity House played a vital role over the years. I hope they know this program saved lives. It also gave many families not only a safe haven but also a chance to know that there were people willing to help them.

So no, being involved with Opportunity House for more than 10 years was not something I planned to do, but it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.