Providence Place Returns to Their Roots.

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December 18, 2018 By Inez Kirchner
Judith Bell, President-and-CEO
Judith Bell,
President & CEO

“We help people see they have a future story, and that the earlier chapters of their life do not define them,” said Providence Place CEO, Judith Bell“They take the lead in transforming their story. We’re the plot twist.”

Plot twists and transformation define the unique beginning and journey of what Providence Place has become today. Formerly a brothel in downtown San Antonio, its owner Madame Volino was inspired to transform her business into a home for wayward girls Providence Place changes nameafter a pastor ministered to her. Providence Place, formerly the Methodist Mission Home, became a place that rescued girls and provided safety and protection to anyone that needed it. Ahead of its time, the home innovatively provided vocational education training in housekeeping, cooking, and sewing, to the women to prevent them from returning to the streets. 

Many of the rescued women were pregnant or traveling with children, which caused hardship for the women who could not provide adequate care or felt the need to return to their former life. As a solution, the home began placing children for adoption in the early 1900s, becoming one of the earliest licensed adoption agencies in Texas. “Our license number is 4,” said Judith. “By the 40s and 50s, we were placing 800 babies a year with families.” Once they outgrew the building, the team moved to a 25-acre campus near the Medical Center, where they are located today. “It became a secure, safe and private haven for these women facing unplanned pregnancies,” said Judith.

children visit Blessings Boutique
These precious girls posing, while their parents
shop in the Blessing’s Boutique.

With the decision of Roe v. Wade, the rise in contraceptive use, and the decrease in stigma associated with unwed mothers, adoptions declined steadily through the 70s. It was time to reevaluate the organization’s mission. After reviewing a community needs assessment, which outlined the gaps of services in the city, the center set its focus on providing vocational education training to the deaf and hard of hearing. “We went back to the same theme that Volino had started with – vocational education training,” said Judith. Later, the center began offering transitional housing and independent living skills to all adults with varying disabilities. The program expanded over 44 years in what was known as the Center for Higher Independence (CHI). With changes in government regulations and its impact on the Center for Higher Independence, the staff made the difficult decision to end the program, and once again reevaluate their mission in 2017. 

Family shops Blessings Boutique
A new family shops the Blessing’s Boutique
to pick out a new outfit for their little girl.

“When God shuts one door, you have to be brave enough to walk through another door,”

“When God shuts one door, you have to be brave enough to walk through another door,” said Judith. Describing it as a “God moment” Judith was called to a page in a book covering the history of Providence Place that said, “We rescued two pure souls off the streets today.” Judith knew what they were supposed to do. As experts in adoption, housing, and vocational education training, the agency decided to go back to its roots and rescue people from the streets, and specifically survivors of human trafficking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. 

The inspiration for My Mariposa Home, an on-site transitional housing and continuum of care facility was born. “I truly believe this is God’s vision for  Providence Place,” said Judith. “We are returning to our original mission.” With the first resident scheduled to arrive in January 2019, My Mariposa Home will provide safe transitional housing, counseling, and support to women and children to build self-esteem, confidence and long-term, self-sustained independence.

“As you can see, we’re a complex organization, but have a single vision and mission,” said Judith. Providence Place’s vision is to create a community without barriers for all of God’s children, which is evident by the diverse populations served through the organization’s work with people with disabilities, foster-to-adopt families, parents, and now, adult survivors of human trafficking.

A core value of grace drives the center. “We were founded on God’s grace with Volino’s experience, and we have the responsibility to live and provide service with grace,” said Judith. “We meet people where they are on their journey, without judgment, and that defines us as an agency.”

“We meet people where they are on their journey, without judgment, and that defines us as an agency.”

Judith tells how an anonymous adoptee recently stopped by Providence Place to take a walk around the campus and visit the chapel. The adoptee said it was her 50th birthday and that she had been adopted there in 1968. She had been born at 5:30PM and wanted to be on campus, in case her birth mother might also show up. “She was reminding me of our purpose. We exist because people have allowed us to be part of their lives, and that’s a blessing.”

Providence Place has help create over 6,000 families.
Providence Place has help
create over 6,000 families.

When the woman left, a letter and single-stem rose was left on the altar in the chapel. With no identifying names, but only addressed to “Mom,” and signed, “Me,” the woman thanked her mother for coming to Providence Place and deciding to give her life when she could have made another decision. “Coming here and the decisions you’ve made may have been one of the most significant and most difficult moments of your life,” said the letter. “You loved me enough to put me up for adoption.”

“Be assured that my new parents take good care of me and raised me to love and care for others. I thank God for whatever or whoever brought you here,” the letter continued. “It can be easy to lose perspective of the role we get to play in so many stories,” said Judith. “The adoptee probably believed that we helped her that day, but in reality, she helped me, she helped us.”

“We’re an agency that stands in the gap between hurting and true healing, and that’s beautiful,” said Judith. 

With a clear vision and the needed financial support, Providence Place will continue to expand its foster and adoption programs, children and family services, as well as services for people with disabilities with their Oasis and Legacy Homes, and open the Mariposa Home. A tall order, but with an exceptional staff and the Holy Spirit guiding them, Providence Place will grow in their ability to  serve more people and transform even more lives. 

Be A Light. 

Donate. Financial support will assist Providence Place in successfully opening the My Mariposa Home, expanding their programs and services, and helping the diverse cross-section of the community that is in need. Please consider a year-end gift and ongoing support. Foster-to-adopt referrals. As a pioneer in adoption, the center is always looking for loving families to become trained and licensed in foster care, as well as place children in open adoptions. Sponsor a tour or presentation. Churches, civic groups and other organizations can learn more about Providence Place by requesting a presentation or tour of the facilities. Pray. That Almighty God will continue to direct their steps and allow them to impact the lives of even more people who are hurting! 

Story Made Possible By:

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San Antonio | Dallas | Oklahoma City
Phone: 210-403-5350

The Covenant Team is deeply engaged in the San Antonio, Dallas and Oklahoma City markets. We believe there is value in sharing our intellectual, social, human and financial capital in ways that drive community and organizational impact. We exist to enable you to live a fuller and more meaningful life. Our team sets out each day to unburden individuals and families from the daily cares of financial management to empower them to pursue their passions and interests. Visit our website or contact us today to begin your journey. 

Written by

Inez Kirchner

A native of San Antonio, passionate about telling stories and helping others find their voice. She has been writing for corporations and non-profits for more than a decade.

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