Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mercy Ministries Featured in The Tennessean’s “Season to Give” Series

During the holidays, one of Nashville’s biggest newspapers, The Tennessean, ran a series of stories called “Season to Give." Each day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a different nonprofit organization was featured, encouraging Middle Tennesseans to give a donation and volunteer their time. On Christmas Eve, Mercy Ministries was blessed to be highlighted in the series.

Mercy graduate, Sarah Opperman, was interviewed for the piece and shared how her life was transformed while at Mercy. Sarah has continued to be a part of the Mercy family for over 13 years and now serves on staff as an Intake Coordinator, helping other young women as they apply to the Mercy program. Here is the article featuring Sarah’s amazing story of redemption:

Young women get help at Mercy Ministries
Christian center offers life skills, ways to cope
By Chris Echegaray • THE TENNESSEAN • December 24, 2010

Sixteen and pregnant, Sara Opperman's thoughts were racing — thoughts of giving the baby up for adoption, thoughts of ending the pregnancy, thoughts of ending her own life.

Opperman was in high school in South Carolina when she decided that she'd move to Nashville and enter Mercy Ministries of America, a nonprofit residential program that helps young women with addictions, abuse, unplanned pregnancies and eating disorders.

"We had a monthly Christian magazine at home, and I saw the ad and I applied," Opperman, 30, said. "I had an unplanned pregnancy, finding my identity. I would say, overall, it helped me prepare for the next step in becoming a mom."

Three years ago, Opperman took a job as intake coordinator for Mercy Ministries, which also helps women who were victims of sex trafficking.

The clients are mostly between ages 13 to 28 and stay for six months addressing their issues, said Whitney Nall, a spokeswoman.

"They are not here on a court order," Nall said. "They are here by their own choosing. The major requirement is that they want the help. That changes everything."

Daily training offered
Each morning starts with daily Bible reading and counseling. They also have life skills training that address their personal problems. Another component is nutrition and exercise, Nall said.

"Some don't eat enough," she said. "Some eat too much. They are taught portion sizes and taught how to cook their own meals."

The local nonprofit, launched in 1983, survives strictly on donations from a variety of fundraising events, businesses and personal donors. It doesn't apply for state or federal grants because it wouldn't have the freedom to apply Christian teachings.

Mercy runs homes in Nashville, St. Louis, Sacramento, Calif., and Monroe, La., offering free help to about 260 clients a year. It costs $175 per day, per woman for food, shelter, clothing and classes.

"At any time, there are 500 girls in the application process," Nall said. "With challenging times we get more requests for services."

They raise funds with 5K races and will have a team in the Country Music Marathon raising money.

Kirsten Mickelsen of Nashville started volunteering at Mercy several months ago. She admired the way the organization helped young women find their way despite the challenges.

"I love the way they care for the girls," she said. "They learn while they are there and make sustainable changes in their lives."

We would like to express our gratitude to The Tennessean for featuring Mercy Ministries in this series. We also want to offer our special thanks to those who responded to it by giving. Mercy Ministries helps bring hope and healing to hurting young women dealing with abuse and life-controlling issues completely free of charge. Because we are a nonprofit that does not take state or federal funding, we rely solely on our generous donors to meet our financial needs. Increasing awareness gives more people the opportunity to help these hurting young women have their lives transformed and their hope restored. Thanks for helping to spread the word!