Everyone has an opportunity to share their blessings in the Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser being held around the country, but this year one is close to home in Estevan. Shelley Boyes, founder of the successful Choose Life Ministry, which is based out of southeast Saskatchewan, reflected on how far they have come as she explained their new fundraising idea since COVID 19.
Choose Life was developed from Boyes’ need for people she knew and loved to get help with many of the struggles in life. Drugs and alcohol, self-harm, eating disorders, abusive relationships – all of these things and more can actually start off as a seemingly harmless pleasure to be enjoyed that takes us into places we never thought we would be without a way to get out.
“The original fundraising banquet in 2012 was a huge, elegant affair that was held to see if anyone would come alongside this need I had to help young women struggling in all areas of life who had nowhere to go,” Boyes explained. “Our first year the budget was $19,000 and we raised $12,000 at that banquet.”
A board of directors guided and suggested new ideas to Boyes as she walked step by step in her dream to help others.
“When I first started to take steps in this area, a lot of doors seemed to close and I let it go for a while, but when God wants something done the nudging just doesn’t go away,” Boyes mused. “As afraid as I was of the hugeness of the project, I decided to say, ‘I will just do the next thing I need to do and see what happens.’
“I had a great board of directors that helped me see ways it could be done that were not in my plans, such as starting something independent of a large international organization, designing the program and starting it an old, beautiful stone home that had not been lived in for 25 years.”
In an effort to get this amazing dream launched with a new building that could house 20 young women, Boyes and her board went out to look at the property where some noticed the old stone house standing there empty and neglected. Seeing the potential, her board encouraged her to investigate the structure and start sooner with fewer girls. Although in Boyes’ mind, that was impossible her board helped her to inspect, renovate and restore the building in which six young women moved into for the first time in 2018.
When asked about the actual program and what the young ladies ‘do’ while at the homestead, Boyes shared, “We introduce them to Jesus, the only One who can heal them.” Although that might mean a lot of things to a lot of people, Boyes shared the programs they have discovered and developed to walk through with the girls including a 12-step Christian program and an authentic living life plan for building their new future.
Everything they do immerses the young women in God’s love and reinforces that love as they reveal their true identity, they renew their minds with truth, and they learn how to forgive and be free.
“We know that if we can get to the root of the issues the symptoms will fall away. In the end, the symptoms are all just a way to escape or I guess, cover up or medicate the pain that they are going through.”
Although they have had girls from all over the country stay at the homestead, seven young women have completed the entire six months and graduated from the program to go on to live new, joyful, successful lives. “They keep in touch with us after they leave the homestead as they build other supports in their communities and it is wonderful to hear how well they are doing,” Boyes said. “It is an intense program that takes a lot of perseverance and needing to walk through many things they do not want to deal with.”
Initially, the ministry relied on donations and fundraising for its entire support. In 2014 a friend of Boyes’ came to her and asked about the idea of opening a thrift store to help raise money to cover the growing budget. While she thought this was a good idea she simply did not have time so left it in their capable hands. As of today, there are thrift stores in Estevan, Carlyle, Fort Qu’Appelle, Whitewood and most recently, in the height of COVID, Carnduff.
Because they cannot do their annual banquet which raised much needed funds, the ministry has partnered with Coldest Night of the Year to make up the gathering’s shortfall. With a goal of $20,000, the nine teams, with a total of 55 people will walk two kilometres and five kilometres in Estevan on Feb. 20.
Boyes explained the wisdom in needing this fundraiser and continuing to figure out new ways to raise money as the budget has soared to $769,000 this year in meeting the needs of the young women coming into the program and maintaining 27 employees between the five thrift stores and the staff at the homestead.
“I am in awe of everything God has done and all I did was take the next step,” she gratefully explained.
Choose Life Ministry deals with the much needed, mental health and emotional health side of life where the system falls short. We could use more of these homesteads in the province to help young people pick up the pieces of their lives and walk in the freedom and purpose they were meant to live.
Please consider donating to Choose Life Ministries at cnoy.org