lower lights ministries
message from LLM's CEO
“I can’t wait to go back to when life was fun and I got to play when I wanted.” - Charlie, 6 years old
Jan Ruark, CEO
Out of the mouth of babes! I might not be as honest as Charlie about it, but I certainly shared his feelings in 2020. I don’t believe there is any reason to write about the difficult things Lower Lights faced this last year--many of you have endured the same or worse hardships. I do believe it’s important to share a piece of wisdom that has helped us through them. It goes like this: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness...” (Matt. 6:33a). It was the word “first” that captured and challenged me as the year unfolded. What did my mind go to first? The political division we felt as a community, or the fierce loyalty staff and residents felt when any of us was threatened? Honestly, what truly came first for me? The survival of our organization or the enrichment of the people we serve?
The word "seek" is equally challenging. To seek is not a casual look, but a determined searching. And as we determinedly searched together for what God was doing and what the righteous decision was, we overcame. We overcame the separation from each other, the cancellation of fundraisers, the loss of volunteers, and the doubts and fears that we could ever get back to what we were. Most surprisingly, when the year was over, I looked back and realized the organization had not only survived, but in many ways, had thrived. We grew, we adapted, we learned to appreciate a lot of things we had taken for granted. So, as you read through our annual report, I hope you will seek His kingdom first in what you find here and in your own difficulties; I hope you find encouragement in our story. I pray your hardships will be lightened and that soon, “life will be fun and we can all play whenever we want to.”
2020 at a glance
Lower lights recovery
In addition, during 2020 we planned and implemented our new Sober House program, providing housing for an additional 4 women who wish to continue their journey with us beyond the more structured programming Lower Lights Recovery already offers. We are in the process of Level I certification from Ohio Recovery Housing for our Sober House, and when approved Lower Lights Recovery will be the only provider of Level III,II and I housing for women in Central Ohio.
2020 was a phenomenal year of stretching and growth for our recovery community with a total of 58 women served since our inception in 2018.
(re)established healthy relationships with family
remained sober within the program for at least 90 days
of participants eligible to work gained employment
During the chaos and hardships of COVID-19 Lower Lights Recovery remained fully operational and kept its doors open to vulnerable women in Central Ohio. This year we provided recovery housing and comprehensive addiction support to 29 women – this represents a 45% increase from last year!
With limited access to outside partners and providers, we temporarily provided nearly all services in-house. Participants farther along in the program assisted with co-leading groups, organizing group meetings, and leading meditations. These opportunities allowed women to serve as leaders and helped provide participants with a sense of purpose in their sobriety.
This year at Rachel’s House was full year of growth and transition. Unfortunately, we were unable to hold our weekly in-person bible studies at Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) due to COVID-19 restrictions. Typically these gatherings are the way we connect with new program participants. Instead, we started communicating with potential residents through case managers at ORW. Despite these disruptions in our traditional referral process, we were still able to house and serve 13 women and made meaningful connections with ORW staff.
One of these connections included a new partnership with the ORW program that serves “lifers” (a prisoner sentenced to life in prison with the option of parole). We are now receiving more of these referrals and are trusted to help women navigate the challenges of life after a long prison sentence including finding employment after decades of not working and reconnecting with estranged children and family members.
Amid the ups and downs we celebrated another year of walking side by side with women as they reunited with their kids, built healthy support systems, and forged ahead with hope and purpose.
program 3 year recidivism rate compared to Ohio's average of 33%
(re)established positive relationships with family members including children
increased positive support networks
bright lights kids
While it has been a challenging year, it has been a year of growth and thinking “outside of the box” to provide safe learning opportunities for our young friends, new and old!
children participated in mentoring, day camp, Academic Readiness Camp and the Learning Extension Center
Mid-March our program was forced to shut down temporarily due to COVID-19. , BLK staff made weekly deliveries with educational items (tablets, books, workbooks, school supplies), games, lego kits as well as lists of community resources, gift cards and cleaning supplies for the families. These visits made it painfully clear that our students needed continued support and engagement throughout the summer.
Following recommended CDC protocols, BLK began our summer day camp 2 weeks early. Children were divided into small groups based on chosen interests and enjoyed water games, art activities, visits to Franklinton Farms, and bicycling to local metro parks. After so much learning loss due to the barriers of virtual learning, we implemented an additional 5 weeks of Academic Readiness Camp (ARC) to help prepare students for the upcoming school year which included engaging reading, writing, and math activities.
In the fall, we collaborated with Westside church partners and Columbus City Schools to become a Learning Extension Center. Four mornings a week our staff welcomed remote learners in our area and provided internet access, meals and educational support from caring adults in a safe environment.
Youth continued to meet weekly with their academic and personal mentors with the option of meeting in person or virtually. Our volunteer mentors went above and beyond the call of duty, providing expanded academic and social-emotional personal support to the students (and families) they volunteer with.
meals were served to youth during programming
parents of youth involved in LLM programming received supportive services from LLM staff
lower lights family housing
It turns out that operating a family housing program in the midst of a pandemic changes everything. 100% of our residents lost their job within 60 days of March, 2020. Suddenly, life skills that they had long mastered, like providing food, utilities and child care were difficult to maneuver. Creating family stability and moving forward with goals and dreams seemed impossible. Lower Lights Family Housing waived all fees and housing costs including utilities and provided medical and transportation support. We were housing 20 people when the pandemic hit, and we all banded together to ride out the storm.
Residents worked alongside staff to hand out emergency supplies to others, encouraging them with a laugh or a socially distant fist-bump. They found creative ways to keep family together and stable. They found new jobs, or returned to old ones and kept looking forward to accomplishing their goals and dreams.
And as the pandemic became part of normal life, Lower Lights Family Housing realized we had to change as well - 4 housing units were designated “Mom and Me” units, specifically equipped for women recovering from substance use disorder and their brand new infant. Lower Lights established a transitional employment program, hiring housing residents to work at the organization, learn a specific skill, make decent wages, and establish a work history and solid reference.
As March of 2021 approaches, we are looking forward to the future and are celebrating the positive changes we have all seen. Our mission remains unchanged however: to create a safe environment where family stabilization can occur and strong, enriched families can change their world.
of participants were provided with increased financial support, including waived program fees, food and other emergency needs
of participants increased in community involvement
of participants decreased in addictive bahviors