Isaiah 40:31 reads “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” This scripture articulates the promise of renewal and strength for those who trust in the Lord. This passage symbolizes the dawn of new beginnings, akin to the vibrance of blooming flowers and the invigorating warmth of the sun. Through Hand UP for Women two graduates have experienced God’s profound love. They have cultivated their relationship with Christ, embracing him and envisioning a future with Him at the forefront.

Ashley’s Story

Tazewell native Ashley Myers called Claiborne County home her whole life. Married with three kids she did not expect to end up in jail. But in 2019 she started using drugs on her 30th birthday. Something she never thought she would do; she just wasn’t happy at home and says she turned to them as a crutch. Her relationship with her husband was no longer working. A year into her drug use she lost her mom in April of 2020. Just a few weeks later her marriage was over and due to her addiction, her husband kept the kids while she ended up on the streets. Ashley’s entire world was destroyed in a month.

“I just went on a downward spiral. I literally lost my mind,” Myers said.

The following year Ashley’s record filled up with charges. Eventually, she was sent to the Campbell County Drug Court, which connected her with a halfway house in Knox County. There, her roommate introduced her to Hand UP for Women.

Siearrah’s Story

Growing up in Knox County, Siearrah Collins recalls her upbringing marked by her dad’s struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. “My dad was my babysitter for me and my sister while my mom worked two jobs trying to support us,” Collins said. However, his battle with addiction rendered him unfit to provide stable and safe childcare. Siearrah shared that she started struggling with mental illness, leading to outbursts and violence toward her sister. Eventually, the Department of Children’s Services placed Siearrah into foster care from time to time due to her father’s inability to care for her while her mom was at work.

As Siearrah navigated into adulthood, she faced teen pregnancy, domestic violence and jail time. While in jail she would attend church services as a way of getting out of her cell for a little bit of time.

When she got out of jail she went to a halfway house as well where she found a domestic violence support group. A woman there introduced her to Hand UP for Women. “I felt empty and like I didn’t have purpose,” Collins said. “And I wanted something more so I applied.” She wasn’t sure if she would go to her interview, but something told her to not waste Executive Director Eva Pierce’s time. Siearrah didn’t, and then she got accepted into the year-long program.

A Transformative Program Experience

Although Ashley recalls her mom being a believer in Christ, it wasn’t until she was in jail that she started faithfully reading her Bible. That devotion continued while she was at her halfway house.

“Hand UP for Women and drug court were the two that saved my life,” Myers said, “ I was as broken as broken could get. The support and the comfort in these Godly women around you-–it was like you got on holy ground when you got to Duncan House, these women truly love you.”

A few months into the program Ashley started increasing her Bible readings. She began doing the YouVersion daily devotional. Developing self-love and her relationship with God went hand-in-hand.

“Hand UP taught me that we have to do the footwork. We can’t just ask God for one thing, we have to read the Bible, talk to God on the daily, trust in HIm and communicate with him, it’s not something that’s just handed to you,” Myers said. The program facilitated Ashley’s deepening of her faith, a transformation Siearrah also experienced.

Siearrah’s technology class instructor would have her turn her problems into prayer. Each time before class she and the other participants prayed. It made Siearrah enjoy coming to class more though the class was not religious in nature except for this simple moment at the start of each session. She began praying more and marking Bible verses more. Then she noticed her anxiety dwindling. “I am more whole because of Hand UP for Women,” she said. “It would show us that you could find a Bible verse for any problem.” She is grateful Hand UP for Women staff and mentors exemplified how to have a relationship with God.

Finding a Foundation of Faith Moving Forward

“It was all just amazing,” Myers said, “I hold this program so dear to me that I will talk about it with anybody that will sit and listen.”

Faith is a part of Ashley’s family moving forward. She and her new husband met at a narcotics anonymous meeting. Their relationship has been built with God first, recovery second. “We’ve done so much together and it’s all heaven-sent, there’s no doubt. There’s no way I could be the woman, wife and mother I am today without Hand UP leading me in my faith,” Myers said.

Every single night, as a family, Myers said they bless their dinner. Ashley still gets up every morning and the first thing she does is read her devotional and pray.

Siearrah goes to church and talks with God throughout her whole day. “If I hadn’t found Hand UP for Women when I did, I can’t say that I would be where I’m with my own little house that I rent, a car and a decent job,” Collins said.

Both women have relationships with their children again – something they say Hand UP for Women helped them achieve. If you are interested in learning more about how Christianity is the foundation for Hand UP for Women participants, click here.