by Janelle Beaber, Director of Project Advancement, New Mission Systems International
Two years ago, New Mission Systems International was opening The Fig Leaf Boutique, an upscale, second hand clothing and furniture store to generate revenue for expanding ministry all over the world – extreme poverty alleviation in Kenya, rescuing girls from sex trafficking in Cambodia, caring for handicapped orphans in Ukraine, offering micro-loans and business training for youth in Myanmar—but also making a difference in our own community, we just weren’t sure how.
Then, one cold Tuesday morning two young women joined our weekly devotional meeting where we come together to share project updates and prayer requests. They spent more than an hour telling stories of young ladies who have been trafficked and exploited and their struggles with drug and alcohol abuse, hopelessness, and darkness. It was in that hour that I knew I wanted to be part of the story – the story on the other side.
We opened the boutique nine months later, and it just “happened” to be right next door to Into the Jordan Ministries which brings hope to trafficked and exploited women in Fort Myers, building relationships and support through individual and group counseling with a licensed therapist, case management, and coaching to help them build healthy habits. We gave them store vouchers to help the women with their immediate needs and then started asking questions – “How can we help? What do you need?” The answers became clear. These women needed work history to build confidence and their resume, and basic business skills like maintaining inventory spreadsheets and using a cash register. They needed an understanding employer who would help them break through the trauma they’ve endured, the feelings of worthlessness, and the desire to run away from issues instead of facing them. They needed an opportunity. We dreamed of employing these women in our store and offering a safe place to help them to not just grow, but to thrive; where they could learn about retail and customer service, the importance of showing up to work on time, and telling their employer when their child was sick and they couldn’t make it. All that became possible in February of this year when we were awarded a community impact grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation to start “New Life for Lost Treasures.”
Today, four beautiful, hopeful, talented young women have joined us in The Fig Leaf Boutique. They make daily progress, and we are amazed at the changes we are seeing in just weeks. Christa Hicks, Executive Director of Into the Jordan told me days ago, “I cannot begin to explain the changes I am seeing in ‘P’ since starting this program. It has given her something to work toward – a reason to stay and work through issues in her life. She was a runner. In the past it was hard to help her gain life skills necessary to maintain long-term employment as she runs away from conflict and anything that triggers fear. This program is changing her! We have talked her through several intense situations that would have once had her missing for weeks—on the streets, back in the arms of another ‘John.’ Work is becoming her safe place and I am so hopeful for her future as well as the futures’ of the other women we will reach through this program.”
New Mission Systems International is a Christian mission sending agency with more than 200 affiliates in 27 countries. For more information, visit nmsi.org, or contact Janelle Beaber at [email protected], 239-989-5155 for program information.
This summer, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is spotlighting the nonprofit organizations funded through the 2016 competitive grant cycle. We have asked our 2016 grantees to send us their stories. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $93 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $63 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $3.2 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services, as well as provided regional community impact grants and scholarship grants.