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Center gives women New Life

December 21, 1997

Center gives women New Life

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Shannon has done a lot of living in her 23 years but now she is content to stay within the walls of the New Life for Girls center, determined to change her life.

"Only death is waiting for me outside,'' said the Westminster woman who is overcoming a raging cocaine addiction through treatment and prayer.

Shannon is one of seven women enrolled in the program that is operating out of Mount Hope Prison Ministry at 25 Summit Ave. in downtown Hagerstown.

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"I had been coming to church here. I was snorting cocaine and doing crack and then I got arrested,'' Shannon said.

Given a choice between prison and going into the New Life for Girls, Shannon chose New Life.

Seeded in Hagerstown last August from the Westminster center, New Life is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian residential rehabilitation program. It lasts one year.

"The girls who come here never leave this building,'' said Judy Valentine, co-director of New Life with her husband, Nathan.

After the initial three-month program in Hagerstown, the girls are sent to Dover, Pa., where they complete the program, Judy Valentine said. That includes getting their high school diplomas while learning how to re-enter society drug-free and committed to God.

"Our first goal is to make these girls drug-free. The second goal is to accept God as their savior,'' Judy Valentine said.

Nathan Valentine said the girls spend their days in study, Christian education and individual counseling. Each girl has either a private bedroom or shares a double room with another girl.

Supported by donations from individuals and churches, New Life asks only $25 from each woman for the paperwork necessary to get them started in the program.

"We get no government money and the girls don't need to have insurance either,'' said Nathan Valentine.

He and his wife met while working with New Life for Girls.

"The Lord called us here,'' Nathan Valentine said.

The women at New Life are sometimes referred to the program through the courts, while others come on the advice of pastors, family and friends.

Some just walk through the front door and ask for help.

"I lost my family, my daughter ... everything because of drugs,'' said Jeannette, also 23.

After an arduous three-week wait for a bed, Jeannette was in her second week of the program in mid-November.

But before she began, she said she was rushed to the hospital for a drug overdose.

"When I woke up, people were praying for me. I saw hope and was happy I was still alive,'' Jeannette said.

Jeannette said her goal in New Life For Girls is very simple.

"I just want to be normal,'' Jeannette said.

Grace echoed that feeling, noting that at 36, she is a lot older than many of her "classmates'' and she has four children.

"God is working with me,'' Grace said, noting this is her second attempt to remain drug-free. "I'm going all the way this time.''

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