"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
“People often ask me how I became involved with Gracewood,” said volunteer Kellye. “I love to say, ‘It was the play house.’”
Three years ago, Kellye was looking for a community service project for her daughter and a friend that they could work on for 20 hours to complete their Girls Scout Bronze Award.
“As their leader, I wanted them to find a meaningful project that would ignite their servant hearts,” said Kellye. “After learning of Gracewood at a missions fair at our church, Sugar Land Baptist, we met with the staff, who suggested a remake of their children’s play house.”
The girls along with their families quickly fell in love with Gracewood as they made cushions, cleaned, painted and filled the playhouse with toys.
“We saw the joy that it brought to the children and the safe, nurturing environment that Gracewood provided for the moms and children who lived there,” said Kellye. “Gracewood was forever written on my heart.”
It was not just the play house that ignited Kellye’s heart for Gracewood though, but her own life story.
“Twenty-nine years ago, I was married to my college sweetheart and pregnant with my first child. Unfortunately, I became a statistic – a 23-year-old, college-educated, abused, pregnant woman,” said Kellye.
She was living almost 1,000 miles away from her family, yet as soon as she called her mom from a hospital emergency room, her mother and brother left in the middle of the night to come pick her up and bring her back home.
“Even now, thinking about that time in my life brings tears, but the support and encouragement that my family offered to me during the rest of my pregnancy, divorce proceedings and assault court dates, made all the difference in the world,” said Kellye. “It meant that I had a safe home and I could heal both from the physical bruises as well as the emotional ones.”
Because of her family’s support, it also meant that she was able to return to college to earn her MBA, become a college professor, remarry seven years later and blend two more sons and then add two daughters into her family.
“It also allowed my son the opportunity to become an amazing, strong young man and a constant source of joy to me,” said Kellye.
All of this and more is what Gracewood offers to moms and children through its mission of bringing hope, home and healing.
“Gracewood provides a safe haven for single moms to rebuild their lives and allows them opportunities to seek education and plan meaningful careers,” said Debbie Rippstein, Executive Director of Gracewood. “But most importantly, Gracewood becomes their family and offers love, support and acceptance just as Kellye’s family did for her.”
“I have delighted in building relationships with the families at Gracewood and seeing it all come full circle for me from single mom, to married mom, to mentoring mom,” said Kellye.
Each month, Kellye’s ladies group from Sugar Land Baptist Church prepares and enjoys dinner and fellowship with the families of Gracewood. They encourage and support them while they are at Gracewood and help them set up their apartments once they are ready to venture out and build new lives.
“We only hope that we touch their lives as much as they are touching ours,” said Kellye.
Just as the play house received lovely transformations designed to make it strong and sturdy, able to withstand life’s difficulties, so are the moms of Gracewood.