Mother’s Day is a beautiful time for many of us, and spending the day with family allows us to create memories we will cherish. However, Mother’s Day can also be a difficult time for those who are dealing with loss – which can come in many forms.
Yesterday we had the pleasure of taking groups from both Washington County and Elizabethton to see a private showing of the film “I Can Only Imagine” at Real to Reel Theater. Our clients settled in with refreshments, a viewing guide and then learned the true story behind one of the most recognized songs in the past two decades.
The film gives the viewer an in-depth look into how MercyMe’s Bart Millard grew up in a home where abuse and fear were commonplace. Standing in broken places and acknowledging when we hurt or have hurt others is the central theme throughout the film. It’s when faith and forgiveness intertwine that Bart sees redemption first hand and can begin the healing process. Bart’s story eventually leads to writing and recording MercyMe’s song “I Can Only Imagine,” which has served as a reminder of God’s grace for many years.
After taking in the film, our clients will reflect on its message and discuss in their next group session the lessons of faith and restoration. Our team will also provide clients with additional one on one counseling to those who need to process further and give them the chance to learn more about how forgiveness looks in their own life.
We also want to take the time to thank the many organizations and churches such as Chris Fellowship and First Christian Church who help support Families Free. Their encouragement and support allow us to provide opportunities, like this one, that our clients might otherwise not be able to experience. #LoveRestores
Are you still searching for the perfect gift for mom? We invite you to shop for a cause! Coffee and chocolate are small pleasures that make the day better, and we think mom deserves the very best of both.
We are excited to announce that our very own Emily Mark was recognized by Milligan College for her student leadership and community service during their annual Leaders in Christian Service program. Through her work with Families Free, Emily has impacted many lives – especially our clients who are currently incarcerated. Through our existing Women’s Services in the Johnson City Detention Facility, Emily has facilitated book donations that serve as an outlet for the recipients.
“Families Free works with clients who are frequently stereotyped in society, and I feel that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Emily. “I am honored to be recognized by Milligan College, but what makes me happiest is knowing that the donation will benefit our clients.” Emily’s award from Milligan College also includes a monetary donation given to Families Free on her behalf, and this donation will be used to provide more books for the women in the Johnson City Detention Facility.
When asked about the importance of Emily’s book donations, women from the detention facility had this to say about the role that books play:
I appreciate having reading material. It helps to have an outlet when I have downtime. – Ashley Thank you so much for the books that are provided for us here at the facility. It helps to be able to escape from the fact that we are incarcerated sometimes. I appreciate it more than you know. – Vanessa Doing time is very mentally draining. Having books to get lost in for any amount of time helps my days to move forward so much, and it helps me to stay somewhat level-headed. Thanks so much! – Brandy
We want to thank Jail Administrator Amy Clark for helping us share these stories and for her continued support of our programs. Through our partnership with the Johnson City Detention Facility and Emily’s hard work, we continue to see lives restored through love. #LoveRestores
We were honored to serve our Woven Coffee during the Human Trafficking 101 event organized by Families Free Board Member Jill Stott, the Regional Coordinator for Northeast Tennessee Council On Children and Youth. Speakers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking presented an in-depth look at current statistics, common warning signs, and how to respond.
The opportunity to be among those who are working for the fight against trafficking was truly an inspiration for our team. #LoveRestores
For the final post in our Easter series, we are sharing the words of our Clinical Director Robin Ledford. When reflecting on what this day means to her, we feel that Robin beautifully describes the themes of restoration and love that play a central role on Easter.
One of Families Free’s beliefs is that #LoveRestores. This is what I think of when I think about Easter: restoration and love.
What do we do when we see the “criminal” in the paper? Do we also see the person who’s addicted, who started using at age 10 with his/her parents, the person who was neglected, the person who was abused – or do we just see the criminal?
The story of Easter is not about bunnies, dyed eggs, and pretty dresses. The story of Easter is of pain, blood, sweat, tears, and love – self-sacrificing love. Love is messy. Love sometimes hurts and stands in the gap with and for other’s pain. This is the beauty of love and the type of love which brings restoration. This is the love at the heart of Families Free.
We wish everyone a peaceful time of reflection this Easter, and once again we must extend a big thank you to those who made our client Easter baskets and devotionals possible. Their generosity aids in the restoration of individuals in our community and their families. #LoveRestores
“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40
On this Good Friday, we continue our series on Easter traditions. In our blog post yesterday, members of our senior staff shared what Easter means to them, the importance of traditions, and why our team takes the time to encourage clients to create their very own. Below we’ve included additional Easter introspections from our team members, and they share the traditions that allow their family connections to thrive.
Judy Clark and Lisa Tipton
Judy Clark, Director of Women’s Services – Our Easter traditions are made up of Easter egg dyeing, cookie decorating, Easter egg hunts and Easter baskets. We always try a new way of dyeing eggs each year that is fun and sometimes messy. My husband would hide the baskets Easter morning and create a trail of marshmallows for them to be able to find their baskets!
Easter is a reminder for me that because of Christ sacrifices on the cross, we can have new life in Him! We drive around during this season, and we see those reminders all around us with trees blooming, flowers peeking through, and the grass turning green. This picture of renewal is a daily reminder for me and my family that God is alive and He lives in each of us!
Lisa Tipton, Executive Director, LADAC – Easter to me is about love, sacrifice, redemption, and freedom – knowing that Jesus loved us enough to make a way for all of us to live in freedom. Bunnies, Easter eggs, and family dinner make the day complete.
We have one more staff story that we will be sharing on Easter Sunday, and we feel that it encapsulates the spirit of the work we do here at Families Free. Until then, we wish everyone a restful Good Friday. #LoveRestores
Spring has officially arrived and with it the gifts of a new season. We have fully embraced this transition, and in the meantime, our team has been busy preparing for Easter. Prior to coming together with our groups this week, we carefully assembled Easter baskets for the children of our clients and devotional packages for the parents. These baskets and devotionals were made possible through the generous support of those in our community. In return, we were able to provide the opportunity for our clients to experience joy and take part in their very own Easter traditions.
Establishing traditions encourages deep connections that are essential to our clients’ success. With this in mind, we asked members of our senior staff to share what Easter means to them and the importance of traditions.
Rachel Adams and Stephanie Elliott-Carr
Rachel Adams, Woven Coordinator – I’m so thankful to everyone who contributed to making these Easter gifts possible for the families we serve! Traditions are so important because they can provide a sense of connection, identity, and belonging. Some of my family’s favorite Easter traditions are decorating eggs, egg hunts (where the best prizes are something we DO together- an ice cream date, a trip to Bays Mountain, etc.), Easter baskets, and watching “The Passion of the Christ” with our older kids.
Easter can be a contemplative time when you think of the sacrifice of the cross and the miracle of the resurrection- really, two events that changed all of history. I try not to rush past that- it’s such a reminder that when life is dark and fragile, there is always hope. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II
Stephanie Elliott-Carr, Research Coordinator, MA – Easter is a very beautiful time, as I get to be with my family and truly reflect on the meaning of Easter. I am so thankful that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and arose three days later. My church sign said this month, “Easter is more than something to ‘dye’ for…” It is easy to get caught up in dyeing eggs with family and visiting the Easter bunny, but Easter would have no meaning if it wasn’t for Christ.
I feel that showing the love of Christ through giving is a wonderful blessing. By putting together Easter baskets for our clients, we are able to bless families in need.
Vicki Judy, Children and Family Services Coordinator – My family’s Easter traditions include going to church, eating a big meal, and the children hunting Easter eggs stuffed with candy. It has always been a holiday that brings my family together to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I wanted to make the Easter baskets for the children of the women in our programs, because every child deserves to feel the joy of being surprised by an unexpected gift they receive out of love. Our Lord gave us the greatest gift of all, His Son Jesus Christ. I just want to share His love.
We will be sharing more traditions from our team tomorrow, but for now, we invite you to reflect on the renewal of spring and how the celebration of Easter is the ultimate example of how #LoveRetores.
Over the years we have had the pleasure of partnering with several amazing organizations, and chief among them is Bellafina Chocolates.
Founded by Brenda Barnicki, Bellafina Chocolates’ singular purpose is to help vulnerable children in our region and beyond. “I started Bellafina Chocolates in my spare time while working as a Vice President in a Fortune 500 industrial company. I wanted to help underprivileged kids, and we quickly raised several thousand dollars for children’s charities. Barely a year later a corporate restructuring left me without a job and pondering what to do with the second half of my career. I believe that God gives us certain gifts, talents, and circumstances for a specific purpose.”
Brenda’s ability to turn a job loss into an opportunity to help others through delicious chocolate creations serves both our community and your palate. Her vision for the future has given many individuals and non-profits the platform to extend their outreach, and Bellafina has allowed us to enhance social enterprise opportunities through our Woven coffee blend. They not only sell Woven in their store but also employ women from our programs to help process, package, and deliver Woven throughout the community. This, in turn, provides them with the chance to learn new skills and continue to thrive – which helps restore both their confidence and their families.
Photo courtesy of Bellafina Chocolates
Bellafina also makes and distributes made-to-order gourmet artisan truffles designated to benefit Families Free. Each box of Families Free truffles features artwork by our Board Member Myra Phipps. After an act of domestic violence disabled her right hand, Myra taught herself to paint with her left hand. She now uses her story and skills to show others the benefit of art therapy. Bellafina has amplified Myra’s amazing story of hope and healing, and we are grateful for Brenda and her team’s continued support. #LoveRestores
The spirit of giving is a common theme throughout the holiday season, but we’ve been blessed to see this firsthand many times over the course of the year – no more so than when it came time to host a Christmas party for the women in our programs.
Last month we reached out to the community to help us make this Christmas special for our clients and their children, and we received generosity beyond measure. Through our Target wish list and monetary donations, your kindness helped ensure that local children will receive their most-wished-for gifts and necessities.
On December 13th the Families Free team, members of our Board of Directors, and clients all gathered together to enjoy a meal, wrap gifts, and take part in a winter-inspired art project.
A significant moment in the day was when Christmas traditions and stories were shared by our staff. Among several stories, Director Lisa Tipton described how her family received new pajamas each year, and Director of Women’s Services Judy Clark explained how her children love to make their annual gingerbread houses every Christmas. Our hope was that if our clients don’t already have their very own traditions in place, that our stories would inspire them to design Christmas traditions that are unique to their family. Afterward, we then gave each woman a new set of pajamas for their children and gingerbread houses to assemble together!
With the help of volunteers and our staff alike, we then wrapped each gift for the children with care. We knew that excitement was just around the corner for our clients’ families, and this made the day all the more special for everyone involved. We then finished the party with an art project lead by Myra Phillips, a member of our board. This was a wonderful experience for all who took part in painting the winter scene with Myra and bringing home their very own painting will serve as a beautiful reminder of the day.
Once again, we thank every person who contributed to making this day a success. We are so proud of the hard work and grace displayed by our clients throughout this year. #LoveRestores