Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mercy Ministries opens home in Sacramento; already present in St. Louis


October 29, 3:54 PM St. Louis Christian Churches Examiner Alex Fees

A Christian-based home that serves troubled girls in four American cities, including St. Louis, now has a location on the West Coast.

Mercy Ministries just opened a new facility in Lincoln, California. The home just north of Sacramento is a $6 million, 40-resident facility. A similar, 30-bed facility exists in St. Louis.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Mercy Ministries of America is a Christian residential counseling program that serves girls and young women, ages 13-28, which face life-controlling issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, addictions, depression, eating disorders, and unplanned pregnancies. Mercy Ministries’ free-of-charge program has served more than 2,000 young women with its combination of best-practice clinical interventions and faith-based counseling.

Julianne Fogt, Mercy Ministries St. Louis Community Relations Manager, said, “Mercy Ministries is not directly affiliated with any particular church, denomination or organization, but is rather an inter-denominational Christian organization with staff members from a variety of backgrounds and traditions. While girls are at Mercy Ministries, they have daily praise and worship, as well as life-changing classes based on principles of freedom found in God’s Word. The girls also attend a local church in the community where each home is located. Residents at the St. Louis home attend Destiny Church.”

Mercy Ministries Founder Nancy Alcorn said, “Before the construction of the California home, Mercy Ministries in St. Louis was our closest home to California. Now we will truly be able to serve girls from the West Coast in their own backyard. So many girls from California have sought our help over the years, but they have always had to travel across the country to find a Mercy Ministries facility.”

Fogt said Mercy Ministries was founded in 1983.

“The Mercy Ministries program is voluntary and Christ-centered, and lasts about six months. It includes biblically-based counseling and teaching, and life-skills training on nutrition and fitness, budgeting, and job preparation. Transitional care services for graduates include housing assistance, transportation, job placement, and school application.”

Fogt said the residential program serves a diverse population of young women from various socio-economic backgrounds.

Fogt said, “We are committed to providing the young women we serve with the most excellent program services that allow them to recognize their self-worth and prepare them to reach their full potential. Our non-conventional approach to healing allows young women to permanently stop destructive cycles and prepares them to take hope out into their communities.”

In addition to St. Louis and Sacramento, Mercy Ministries of America has residential homes in Monroe, Louisiana, and Nashville, Tennessee. Mercy Ministries has global affiliates in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Canada. For more information, visit www.mercyministries.org.

Fogt said, “Mercy Ministries only accepts applicants who clearly understand our Christian emphasis and specifically seek out our help and assistance. Furthermore, Mercy Ministries’ residents are always free to leave the program at any time.”

Fogt said founder Nancy Alcorn spent five years as the athletic director at a Tennessee correctional facility for female juvenile delinquents. Then she spent the next three years of her life as a supervisor of foster care in Nashville.

“While working at these government run facilities,” said Fogt, “Alcorn realized the girls that were involved in drug use, prostitution, abuse and crime would return to their destructive lifestyles as soon as they were released from custody. Time and time again, she saw the same girls coming back to the correctional facilities with the same charges they had previously faced. Nancy knew that only Jesus could bring restoration into the lives of these girls who were so desperately hurting. God was calling her to step out and do something to help these women in need. In 1983, a friend convinced her to move to Monroe, Louisiana. She was struck by the number of kids in need there and the lack of resources to help them, so she bought a small home and began what she hoped would be an alternative to secular treatment.”

Fogt said Alcorn resides in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of Mercy Ministries international corporate offices.

At Mercy Ministries, volunteers come in three categories. Fogt said home volunteers help with things such as answering phones, maintaining the library, tutoring, and monitoring snacks. Volunteers at corporate headquarters help with things like assembling literature and resource packaging, various administrative tasks, and on-line research.

“We also have interns who receive school credit for their volunteer work,” said Fogt. “Mercy Ministries has artist partners, business partners, and ministry partners. The number of volunteers varies depending on the specific needs at the time.”

Fogt addressed the topic of counselor-certification at Mercy Ministries.

“Necessary qualifications vary by position and by country,” she said, “but all of Mercy Ministries of America professional staff have bachelor’s degrees, with many positions requiring additional degrees and certifications. Counselors at Mercy Ministries of America are required to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university in social work, psychology, counseling or a related field. Mercy Ministries of America counselors meet or exceed state licensing requirements, and the majority of counselors have master’s degrees.”

In addition to four existing homes around the country, Fogt said Mercy Ministries is raising money to build homes on land in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Destin, Florida.

Any new properties will not likely remain empty for long. Fogt said, “At any given time, we average more than 750 girls on our waiting list in America.”