Mary Jean Wilson, executive director of the Shunammite Place, knows how it feels to struggle with a troubled past. She battled and overcame traumatic childhood experiences which haunted her earlier in life. And, she has taken those experiences and created a avenue of help for other women.
She uses these experiences to relate to the women she encounters at Shunammite Place, a thrift store she has run for the last year.
Wilson grew up one of eight children on a dairy farm in Lemoore where she milked cows and picked cotton.
“I was beat daily. My mother lost her mother at a very young age. She really didn’t know how to be a mother,” Wilson said.
Some might say the trauma inflicted upon a child by beating them daily would be enough to psychologically damage them. Wilson not only had to deal with those scars, she had to deal with being raped by her father when she was 15 years old.
Wilson eventually had two children of her own. She drank a lot and carried the emotional scars from her past. Eventually she had a nervous break down in 1978.
After being sick for about three days, she was able to go on with her life because of her faith in God. It was then that she knew she would help other women like herself someday.
Lynda Morris, 34, and Belinda Barragan, 23, work at the thrift store, both of the women lost their children because of their problems with drug addiction. They worked hard to clean up their lives and get their children back.
Morris got custody of her children about a year ago.
“It’s awesome. A big unification process,” Morris said.
She went through a program at the Madera Rescue Mission, and had been on and off drugs for 13 years.
“I tried many times to get clean. But there were things like depression and a divorce. The Lord is the only thing that has helped me,” Morris said.
Barragan lost the custody of her child and was reunited with her 5-year-old daughter a year ago.
“Working here has been a good experience. I never worked before,” Barragan said.
Wilson, Morris and Barragan are not the only ones touched by their experiences at the thrift store. Usually one or two women come in on a daily basis looking for direction and help.
“At least two women come in every day asking about services,” Wilson said. One of the women is a prostitute and the other sells drugs, she said.
“People don’t realize most of the women on the street have mental problems related to drug addictions,” Wilson said.
Wilson worked as a chaplain at the Madera Rescue Mission for more than three years. During that time she noticed a need for a place where women could go and have enough time to heal and be counseled.
The rescue mission currently offers programs for women. However, Wilson wants to provide a longer program for the women to eventually get off the welfare system and become homeowners.
Shunammite Place is a thrift store which is intended to help fund a transitional recovery program for women. The store depends on donations to keep it up and running. They are in need of donations, volunteers, and a house.
The purpose of the program is to help provide permanent supportive housing for women. It will be an intense program to help women and women with children to become self sufficient for a healthy successful lifestyle. The program is intended to carry these women from homelessness to employment to home ownership, according to a Shunammite Place flyer.
Shunammite Place is located a 412 N. E Street. For more information call 673-4308.