Women set out on mission of faith to build House of Hope

By Lynn R. Parks

Robyn Sturgeon believes in the House of Hope. She believes in it so strongly that she is giving up her job as math specialist for the Woodbridge School District to run the Shiloh House of Hope that she hopes to open soon. "I really believe that this is the Lord's will," said Sturgeon, 34, of Seaford. "We know that he will provide. I am amazed at how much he has provided already." Sturgeon shares that belief with Lori Rider, on whose 55-acre farm west of Bridgeville the two women hope to build the residential counseling facility for teens. Rider is giving 10 percent of her farm, more than 5 acres, to the facility." Our family has been through some changes in the last few years, and the farm was a healing ground for my children and me," Rider said. "When you end up with a whole farm intact after a divorce, I feel it's God's grace on my family. I felt that it somehow had to be used to help other hurting families." As planned, the Shiloh House of Hope will have six cabin-like residential homes, three for eight girls each and three for eight boys each. Residents will be 13 to 18 years old. Anticipated cost of each home: $165,000. In addition, it will cost up to $3,000 a month to house and educate each resident, Sturgeon said. Parents of the residents who are able will pay $150 per month. Sturgeon said that funding for the teen residential counseling center will come strictly from donations. The center will not accept any government funds. The center will receive support from the National House of Hope, which has nine Houses of Hope throughout the country, including a 20-year-old facility in Orlando, Fla. Sturgeon has visited it as well as the newly-opened Susquehanna Valley House of Hope near Harrisburg, Pa.

Sturgeon said that families would place their teens in the Shiloh House of Hope. Already, she added, there is a waiting list for the first two cabins. The Shiloh House of Hope will provide Christian counseling to its residents as well as to families of the residents, who will be required to undergo weekly counseling sessions. School lessons will follow the Hope Academy, a Christian course of study used by many home-schooled children. "Our day will be very structured," Sturgeon said. "The teens will follow a strict schedule, will have chores to do and will wear uniforms." Stays will range from eight to 18 months, "depending on progress," she said.Sturgeon met Sara Trollinger, founder of House of Hope, in February 2005 when Sturgeon attended a Women of Faith seminar in Orlando. When Sturgeon told her mother, Sharon Dukes, of Seaford about her desire to open a House for Hope in western Sussex County, Dukes said that she had recently heard that Rider was interested in building such a facility on her farm. When Sturgeon and Rider met, "our visions were very similar," Sturgeon said. "That was confirmation from God that something could be done," Rider added.Sturgeon attended training in Orlando in October and the group was awarded its non-profit status in January. Hearings before the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission and the Sussex County Council will be held this summer, Sturgeon said. Sturgeon said that she has been encouraged to open the residential treatment center by the troubled teens she has encountered in her 12 years at Woodbridge. She said that self-mutilation, especially by girls, is on the rise, as are suicide attempts among teenagers. The most effective treatment for such teenagers, Sturgeon said, is "sharing the love of Christ," something she feels that in a public school setting she cannot do. "We will talk to the teens about Jesus, and get them to know him as a healer," she said. "That is where the healing for these kids will come from.""I so often see kids who are hurting and who are looking for happiness in all the wrong ways," added Rider, who is active in her children's youth and 4-H groups. "If this piece of property can be used to show them the love of Christ, it is important for us to share the blessings God gave us." As for the funding the center will require, Sturgeon and Rider have no doubt that they will be able to raise it. "Every time I have a doubt, God reminds me that he can do anything," Rider said. "He can use us simple people to do great things." The Shiloh House of Hope will have a benefit spaghetti dinner Monday, March 27, 6 p.m. in the Woodbridge High School cafeteria. Tickets are $8, $5 for children 12 and under. For information, call Robyn Sturgeon, 629-5331, or e-mail her at shilohhouseofhope@msn.com. For more information about the House of Hope, visit the Web site www.nationalhouseofhope.org.

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