By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A new facility, being built on the same property where over a thousand Cherokee children have been helped over the years, will help women in recovery and their young children. The Women’s and Children’s Recovery Support Home, a collaboration and partnership between the Cherokee Boys Club (CBC) and the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA), will also be the home for the new Cherokee Residential Support Program for Women.
Ground was broken for the project on the humid afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 30 at the site of the old Cherokee Children’s Home in the Yellowhill Community. According to information from the CIHA, the new program “is designed to help women achieve and maintain recovery from addiction, address psychosocial and mental health issues where necessary, develop skills needed for a productive life in the Cherokee community” and for mothers, “the program will also seek to strengthen the bonds between mothers and their children, and develop effective parenting and life skills and ensure the needs of the children are met during the treatment process”.
Freida Saylor, Cherokee Indian Hospital behavioral health director, called the groundbreaking event a milestone in the hospital’s recovery continuum. “I feel very honored that we have tribal leadership and the resources within this Tribe to be able to put forth an effort for a very vital resource such as the Women’s and Children’s Recovery Support Home.”
During the event, several young women spoke of their trials and tribulations with substance abuse and their eventual recovery effort. Katelynn Ledford, who has been in recovery for 18 months and is a co-founder of RezHOPE, said, “There were times I said that I wanted to get into recovery and wanted to stay clean, but for whatever reason I would get out and go back to the same situations I was in before. I would surround myself with the same people. That’s why I think that this is so important.”
She said recovery is a true struggle and people need to show and share compassion. “Being able to look at each other and not see an addict but see a human being, I know that this facility is going to give people a chance, and that’s what it took for me to get to where I’m at today. It took people giving me a chance.”
Nichole Roberts sought recovery several times and battled with relapses before finally achieving sobriety on July 4, 2016. “My story isn’t pretty, and I’ve done a lot of things that I’m not proud of, but that’s not the person I am today. Today, my recovery gave me the ability to live my best life. My recovery gave me the chance to be the wonderful mother and step-mother I was always meant to be. My recovery gave me a husband who is selfless, caring, and loves me the way that I deserve to be loved. Most importantly, it gave my parents their child back.”
She added, “One thing I witnessed in my years of active addiction and recovery is that a lot of addicts go into treatment and they get clean, then they’re sent right back to their hometowns with no plan in place and sometimes not even a home to go back to. So, what do they do? They go back to the lifestyle of a drug addict because that’s all they know.”
Roberts said this new initiative will help fill that void. “Our community has needed a program like this for years. I cannot stress the importance of this program. I support this program because I know what a wonderful asset it will be for our Native American women and children. Now, our women will have an option. They will have a healthy and safe environment to help them readjust to life in their hometown.”
The 4,290 square feet facility, with a 491 square foot porch, will be able to house eight women, four children, and one staff member which will include three shared-resident rooms for two adult women, two family rooms for one adult and two children or two adult women, and one staff sleeping room. Shared areas will include a dining area, a living room, a kitchen with two cook stations, an enclosed play room for children, a computer room, and a library room.
Skooter McCoy, Cherokee Boys Club general manager, said, “As many of you may recall, this property was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s to provide a stable and nurturing environment for families in need, specifically children. Over 1,000 children sought and found safe shelter in the cottages that were frequently occupied on this piece of land. We’re very proud of that.”
He continued, “It’s only fitting that this site will be repurposed to again provide shelter for families in need, women, and children. The Cherokee Children’s Home has been very fortunate to provide their services in a new, modern facility on Goose Creek Road in the Birdtown Community. We are thrilled that the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority will continue to provide a means for our young mothers to get back on their feet, to get healthy, and once again to become productive within our community.”
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed gave closing remarks at Thursday’s event and commented, “This project represents our continued commitment, here at the Eastern Band, in a partnership between the Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority, the Tribe, and the Boys Club. We are so blessed and so fortunate that we have the resources to be able to provide these services to our people.”
He asked the crowd to think of the phrase “our people” and said it bothers him when people refer to people as “druggies” or other derogatory terms. “They are sons, daughters, moms, dads, brothers, sisters – Tribe…by the very definition, we are a family.”
Chief Sneed concluded with, “This project is going to be just one more piece, one more component, one more tool in this war that we are waging against this scourge of the drug epidemic that is devastating this nation.”