Open Arms at Bethany Place
Little is known about the refinished chicken house on East Cherokee Drive. Today, the home that has saved more than 1,800 women in 22 years needs your help.
As Sandy Reed sits in her newly opened gift shop, she flips through an old photo album full of pictures of the people who have come into and gone out of her life. She pauses over the photo of a young woman sitting on a curb.
"I was watching the news one night and they said they had found a woman who had been beheaded," Reed said. "I knew it was her."
Tales of tragedy and lost loves fill the album, but one by one, Reed names them off like they are her own children. In a way, they are. Although she only adopted one of the women who came through her home, the others look at her with nothing less than the love of a daughter to her mother.
The store is filled with second hand treasures and trinkets, but Reed isn't in it for the money or the good finds. The shop, Bethany Place on East Cherokee Drive, is the sole means of support for the attached battered women's shelter that has helped more than 1,800 women in the past 22 years.
Sandy and Michael married young and divorced eight years later. They eventually remarried, but it was the 10 years she survived as a single mother that set the groundwork for Bethany Place.
When they divorced, they had two young sons who Sandy believed should have a mother at home with them. To support her sons, Reed took jobs like taking care for children and cleaning houses. Even without child support, she never went on welfare, Reed said.
Years later when her boys are adults, Reed looks back on this time as a learning period, a gift from God preparing her for a lifetime of taking care of battered women.
Michael and Sandy remarried after a decade of separation and started a warehouse for women four years later. Although Michael is busy in the yard during a mid-afternoon interview, Sandy speaks freely of his transformation from a faultering young husband to a man of God who is strong enough to live with more than 20 women on a daily basis.
That honesty makes it feel like home there. Photos of the residents are off-limits, but any story and every detail is just a matter of faith, another reason they're who they are today.
Soon after they opened the warehouse, they took in a few young women who needed a place to stay. When their house became too full of women and teenage boys, the couple bought a dilapidated chicken house on East Cherokee Drive, where they live and work today, Reed said.
"All of my experiences brought me to this point," Reed said. "I kept children, I cleaned houses and I was a bookkeeper. All of the areas I needed, he gave me experience in."
Today, Reed accepts women into an 18-month program. She admits that her interview process is strict, but credits the stability of the household to the rules she sets.
The women have to want to change.
The women agree to go 90 days without any visitors. They get up at a certain time, have to clean their room and adhere to her standards of hygiene, Reed said.
She doesn't accept anyone on antidepressants or painkillers, stating that those are just "band aids."
It's not just the young or middle-aged women who are getting their lives together at Bethany Place. Reed said she takes care of one woman in her 60s who had been abused for most of her life.
Reed said if your heart is right with God then your house will be in order. The entire compound is spotless even though it houses at least 20 women and several children all the time.
The shelter, like the rest of her life, is an open book.
"Whenever I have a problem, they know it," Reed said. "They pray for me."