UGM donation will go a long way

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Courtesy photo Julie Wright, center, stepped up as the first $10,000 sponsor for the renovation on the Union Gospel Mission apartments. These apartments are a necessary program piece that give the women who live there a real chance at permanent recovery and success in life. Also pictured here is Zach Arno, who oversees the renovations and Linda Cook, who is the director of community engagement.

By KAYE THORNBRUGH

Staff Writer

A gift from a local woman will enable The Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children to help more residents achieve long-term success.

Julie Wright recently donated $10,000 for the renovation of UGM’s apartment buildings, which provide safe, affordable housing for residents completing the long-term recovery program.

Her donation will go a long way.

“When someone like Julie steps in, all of a sudden, a woman who thought she’d never have her own home has an apartment,” said Linda Cook, UGM director of community engagement. “It’s completing that work of making her a God-dependent, contributing member of our community.”

When UGM acquired the apartments earlier this year, many units were in serious disrepair. Some were too dangerous to live in. Renovations are ongoing, but several people have already moved into apartments that are ready. There are eight units to go. The apartments will be able to accommodate around 20 individuals and families.

The housing maintains UGM’s clean-and-sober policy. Residents pay rent and continue to be accountable to UGM staff.

Individuals who manage to stay in recovery for five years have an 85 percent long-term success rate.

“They never go back to drugs again,” Cook said.

Such a high recovery rate is hard to achieve — but these apartments will help make it possible.

Graduates have jobs when they move out of the Center for Women and Children, but Cook said many can only afford the kind of housing where drugs are being used or dealt, which endangers their recovery.

“They’re scared, because they’re not sure they’re going to fly,” Cook said.

Being able to transition into safe housing where residents have access to their support network makes a huge difference in their future prospects.

“It feels like home to them right off the bat,” Cook said.

In fact, Cook said, when UGM acquired the apartments, the mood at the center changed. Women who were worried about what the future would hold after they graduated from the program felt hopeful instead.

“There’s a profound holistic approach we take to addressing and healing the deep woundedness that these people carry,” Cook said.

Maintaining close contact and offering support while helping individuals gain independence is an important part of that approach.

Endlessly giving to a person who only knows how to take degrades that individual and wastes resources, Cook said — but calling forth dignity and self-reliance from a person creates a mutually-beneficial exchange of values. That’s the UGM philosophy.

“We’re trying to give charity in an effective way, so our society is built, not drained,” she said. “That’s what these apartments do.”

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