Sheltering Arms

Bonnie Johnson, second from right, and a group of women, many former addicts themselves, are working to help women struggling with addiction through a new home for women — Helping Hands and Sheltering Arms. 

When the woman who runs Helping Hands realized there was a need for a place in Saline County to help women recovering from addiction, she rolled up her sleeves and set to work to open such a facility. 

Bonnie Johnson's new house for these women is named Helping Hands and Sheltering Arms. 

Like Helping Hands, Sheltering Arms is a faith-based organization. 

"Everything I do, I do for Him," she said. 

Johnson has spent the last 14 years using Helping Hands to spread God's love to the people of Saline County. Often, people come in to the second-hand store asking her for prayer. Other times, she helps them get food or clothing they need. 

Johnson employs a staff made mostly of women who she has helped over the years, almost all former drug addicts themselves. These women will also be helping with the women at the new house. They will work with the women on how to stay sober. 

She has seen the pain caused by drugs in her own family and she works to help others. 

Johnson and her sister, Janet Wilson, the co-president of Sheltering Arms, lost their brother in 2007 to suicide as a result of his drug problems. At the time, Wilson was also struggling with drugs. Johnson prayed for her sister, who eventually gave up the drugs. 

"I fell to hope," Wilson said. "God met me there."

Johnson said there have been too many overdose deaths recently. That is part of why she wanted to create the house. 

Brenda Hubble is one of Johnson's most recent women she has helped. She came to Johnson at her lowest point. She had just been kicked out of where she was living and was considering taking her life. 

Johnson led her to Christ and now Hubble has hope. She said she knows she will go to Heaven. Johnson helped Hubble find a place to live. 

"God is the only answer," Hubble said. 

Johnson said the home works with other organizations in the area, including Safe Haven and Hope Court. The home can house 12 women and currently has some residents staying there. 

She wants the house to feel like a home to the women she serves. There is food in the fridge. 

She does not force the women to pray, but she does pray for them. The women attend Grace Point Church with Johnson and she offers Bible studies for them. 

They will learn about self care and how to cook. 

After the women have come down and gone through the worst withdrawal symptoms, Johnson will require them to work at Helping Hands until they find a job. They can work at Helping Hands as long as they need. She understands it can be hard to find a job that accommodates drug or hope court schedules. 

For those who want it, Johnson wants to help them pursue and education. 

Amanda Ellingston, who is one of Johnson's survivors, said having a goal is very important to recovery. Without it, no matter how small, an addict will just sit and spin in their addiction. She plans to work with the women at the house on goals. 

She said during her own recovery, people loved her, but did not enable her. She was shown how to set a goal and then when she reached it to set another. 

Johnson said there is no set time. She understands most of the women will come with nothing. When they become stable and get a job, they will pay a small rent amount to stay. 

Johnson recently got a second home where the women can visit with their children after they are farther into their recovery. She is working to fix it up for the women. 

While at Sheltering Arms, Johnson will keep a close eye on the women. There will also be a caretaker living at the house — Melissa Richardson, another of Johnson's survivors. 

Certified Counselor Pam Kinder will be providing her services to the women at the house as well. 

"I am called to help these girls," Kinder said. "And bless them."

Kinder also brings food to the home. 

One of the things Johnson wants to do is give each woman a mirror. She believes helping the women feel better about themselves will help make a difference in their lives. 

Johnson said one need she has is a van to help transport the women she serves. She is trusting God to help her. 

Helping Hands will hold a community prayer on the Saline County Courthouse lawn starting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 26, and a tent revival, with Pastor Richie Willis speaking, starting at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 31, at the Helping Hands parking lot on South Street in Benton. 

To learn more about the house, help or receive help, call Johnson at 501-315-9999 or stop by Helping Hands Thrift Store at 809 W. South St.

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