Building on Success: Jeremiah House hopes to expand in county
The Jeremiah Recovery House in Green Forest is hoping to build new homes in Berryville and Eureka Springs to help more women construct a new path for their lives.
“We’re still at the very beginning stages of that,” said founder and executive director Vickie Poulson. “I feel like the Lord is saying Eureka Springs would be the next spot to start a house. We get a lot of our support from the Eureka Springs community.”
The Jeremiah Recovery House is a Christ-centered sober-living and recovery home for women. Poulson said the home offers a safety net, community, healthcare and job training for women whose lives have been affected by childhood sexual abuse, addiction, prostitution, human trafficking and homelessness.
The first Jeremiah Recovery House was established in 2012. Poulson’s team purchased a 5,000-square-foot home and renovated it with the help of TeamEffort, a youth camp composed of students from all over the nation.
Poulson said she was inspired by the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11, which reads “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans for a hope and future.”
Now, she said she feels the call to expand the project to reach more of Carroll County. The first step, she said, will be building a team of volunteers and staff in these new areas.
“We need to get a team there so that, when we do find a place, we will be ready to get going,” Poulson said. “That was probably the hardest thing when we first started. We were down a long dirt road in our first location, so I thought the Green Forest house would be easier. It has been, as far as getting mentors, because we’re in a more central location.”
Originally, she said her goal was to have three mentors for each woman staying in the house. The requirement for mentors is to meet with the women one hour each week, she said, so having three mentors would have meant three hours of mentorship per week for each woman.
“That’s besides their sponsor,” Poulson said. “They all have a sponsor now, and most have two mentors.”
The main requirement for mentors and volunteers, she said, is that they be willing and able to help. There is also a brief training program and background check, she said.
“We have some rules because in the beginning we have to build that trust between the mentor and the woman they’re helping,” Poulson said.
According to the women going through the Jeremiah Recovery House program, the mentors are a valuable resource of support and encouragement.
“My mentors have touched my life,” said Stacy Maring. “They both listen to me and encourage me. They take me when I need to go somewhere. I was taking a Master Gardener class in Berryville, and my mentor took me to class and picked me up afterwards. They give a lot of their own resources to help.”
“The mentors offer a sense of friendship to us,” said Clarissa Vennerbeck. “They are somebody you can talk to, and it’s not stressful. They’re very encouraging and trustworthy. It’s just a time for you to breathe.”
Vennerbeck said the mentors offer advice from their own lives and the resources they have available.
“It’s an example of how to live life,” Poulson said. “Everybody has problems in their life, so this kind of shows the women how to deal with life without turning to drugs or alcohol. They get to see how their mentors do it.”
She said Jeremiah Recovery House also tries to utilize all of the community support available in Carroll County. Purple Flower has offered domestic violence support groups for the women to attend, she said, and Eureka Christian Health Outreach (ECHO) clinic sees women who come in without insurance. People Helping People helps the women obtain needed prescriptions, she said, and many of the area churches make monthly donations or offer career opportunities for the women.
“The Crescent Hotel and Faith Christian Family Church in Eureka Springs have both offered the possibility of employment for our residents,” Poulson said. “If we could get more of our businesses willing to do something like that for us that would be incredible.”
She said Jeremiah Recovery House also has a lot of internal support from its staff and board of directors, which includes president Carolyn Biossat, vice president Ben Helmer, treasurer Judy Horton and secretary Judy Turner.
“We have a tremendous board,” Poulson said. “We also have great staff members like Jean Helm, who taught gardening, and our case managers Isy Dean and Carla Peck. Then there’s Kelly Masters and Carolyn, who are jacks of all trades and serve as our spiritual advisors.”
Peck began as the housemother for the six-month program, she said, and did a fast track of the two-year program when it started so she could experience what the women in the house did.
“It was cool because when Carla first came to Jeremiah House she had been living with her family,” Poulson said. “After coming through this program, she was able to get her own apartment, her own furniture, her own car and her own job.”
Peck said she has loved giving back to Jeremiah Recovery House and will be celebrating nine years of sobriety this Christmas.
“The first step to my recovery was totally moving away from my people, places and things,” she said. “I came down here and found love and support from SoulPurpose Ministries. Then I surrendered everything to my higher power, Jesus Christ, and kept myself around like-minded people. I’ve always been involved with Jeremiah House and the girls.”
Peck said she hopes other graduates of the program will give back and help Jeremiah Recovery House expand into new cities.
“I can’t wait until we get another house because I will probably move to that house along with one of the other girls to help get it established,” she said. “We hope the girls will give back and help another house, either as a mentor or as staff.”
Poulson said she hopes to have one of the new homes be a recovery house for women with children.
“What I’m visualizing right now is women who have children and are working for reunification would start in one of the houses without children for a year,” she said, “and that way their kids are coming to see them and they’re starting to make that connection.”
After that, Poulson said these women could move into a home with their children to further work on the reunification process.
“I fee like a Berryville home might be the one we would have kids at because the community would be good for it,” she said. “For now, I think we need to work on just the women and keep the reunification process in mind for when we get a house that can have kids.”
A home in Eureka Springs, Poulson said, would be great for career opportunities since so much is in walking distance.
Before either of these new homes can happen, she said Jeremiah Recovery House needs to build a volunteer and staff base in the new areas, find homes they can use and find sources of funding for the utility bills and other expenses.
The program’s success rate is about 75 percent for women who graduate and about 50 percent for women who participate, Poulson said.
Peck said she is excited about the opportunity to expand that success into new areas.
“Our criteria isn’t just drugs and alcohol. We broadened our criteria to help with homelessness and other struggles,” she said. “I think it would be a great opportunity to give people a new start in their life and get them back on their feet where they can be self-supportive and give back to the community.”
Vennerbeck said she looks forward to helping other women in the new homes the same way the Jeremiah House staff helped her.
“I think it would be a really good opportunity to comfort women as they come in,” she said, “when they feel the way I probably felt when I came in. We can show them how it’s done and show them love through Christ.”
Maring said she prays the funding will come through for the new houses because she believes Jeremiah Recovery House can save lives.
“This place saved my life,” she said. “There’s no two ways about it. Vickie saved my life. She’s able to love us so much and show us unconditional love. I’ve never had that before.”
To volunteer or for more information, contact Poulson at 870-654-4059 or at JeremiahHouse2911@gmail.com.