Turning a Dream into a Home
By Heather Bennett
“Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.”
— Proverbs 31:9
BeGenerous Founder and Director Stephanie McMinn has served her local community for the past 10 years by aiding, resourcing and supporting women and their families in desperate situations. It is in her heart to exemplify unity and she does that by partnering with other organizations and agencies in our surrounding areas to ensure those in need get the help available. She is an active member of the Walton County Prevention Coalition and the Walton-Okaloosa County Sexual Assault Inter-Agency Council.
“Ten years in the streets of our communities has given me firsthand knowledge of the challenges we face and an eagerness to fight for freedom,” she says. She serves on the Circuit One Human Trafficking Task Force and is very active in combating this with hopes to end it! Most recently she was elected to join Congressman Gaetz on his Faith Community Advisory Board where she “assists in the fight to protect religious liberty, provides resources to faith-based programs and initiatives and ensures the right to worship is never infringed or prohibited.” Unapologetic about her love for Jesus, she finds joy in testifying of His faithfulness and is intentional about each daughter sent her way and them attaining freedom in every area of their lives.
It may come as a surprise to some, but addiction and sex trafficking are very prevalent in our area. Sex trafficking can include force and or coercion of a victim to be sexually exploited. Many times, at the hands of someone the victim knows. Familial sex trafficking is an example of this, where a child is exploited for the exchange of drugs, a place to live, or money. This is different from abuse because the trafficker is profiting from the victim.
Those who work in the sex industry are often victims of sex trafficking. There is a misconception that strippers and prostitutes have chosen their lifestyle, but often they are victims of deeply rooted trauma that stems from years of manipulation, coerced addiction, threats of violence against their family, and physical and emotional abuse endured by the victim. Many women in the area are being exploited in plain sight.
While there are great programs in the area to help women overcome their circumstances, there are not enough places to stay while in transition. “I’m traveling to Alabama, if not weekly, every other week, to relocate girls, and to get them to one of our partner programs,” said Stephanie. “We just really need to get a house as soon as possible. We have so many girls that need help.”
Stephanie has a bigger vision for the program, establishing a social enterprise as their income generating model to support operational expenses and create a savings account for when the women transition out. The women will gain work skills, gain confidence and have money set aside to start over. Stephanie calls it, All Things New. “That’s what God does in us. He takes away the old and makes something new and beautiful,” said Stephanie. “Women could garden, repurpose furniture, make pottery and fix jewelry. We hope to be able to help them establish an income, a career, maybe even inspire them to start their own business.”
The property they are hoping to raise enough money for The Yellow House Project has acreage for equine therapy, box gardens, a pond for devotion time, workshops, chicken pens, and land for more transitional homes. It has everything they would need. While this property in South Walton is $625,000, Stephanie’s faith doesn’t waiver. “The Lord led me to this house.”
Currently, BeGenerous has no beds and supplies available and relies on a network to help assist these women in need. Stephanie described their efforts as “doing the Yellow House Project without our yellow house,” which includes paying detox fees, travel expenses for relocation, deposits for other transition homes, and paying program fees to other recovery centers.
However, BeGenerous is praying for the love and support of the community this Christmas and New Year season to help them raise enough money for The Yellow House Project to purchase a property for their own home. They are hoping to meet the deadline by the end of this year.
The Yellow House Project is transitional living for women recovering from addiction and abuse from sex trafficking. While in the home, the women will be a part of a 90-day Christ based program where they can receive counseling and start the healing process. There will be an option to stay long term up to 18 months if necessary.
“Now’s the time for the Yellow House to be established. To fill the gap, to be that bridge we need because so often what happens is, we have a woman we are working with and there are no beds available.” Not having a safe place to go to make that transition is sometimes a life or death situation for these women.
BeGenerous is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that relies on support from the community through donations. For more information and how to help with The Yellow House Project, and information about BeGenerous, please visit www.begenerousinc.org.