– Written by Laryssa Schepel, Community Outreach and Events Coordinator
My job title at The Next Door is “Community Outreach and Events Coordinator.” When introducing my role to others, I tell them that half of my time is spent cultivating relationships with local businesses and churches, and the other half is helping coordinate fundraising events at The Next Door. Although we have several fundraising events throughout the year, our biggest and most well-known event is our annual Fall Benefit. Formerly known as ‘the Luncheon,’ the Fall Benefit has grown tremendously, and for the second year in a row, we have added a breakfast event in addition to the luncheon to make room for our growing number of supporters.
This was my first Fall Benefit at The Next Door since I became a staff member 8 months ago. It was also the first Fall Benefit I have the honor of saying I played a role in coordinating. Boy, I can’t say I knew the work I was in for! The months spent recruiting table hosts, corporate sponsors, promoting our event, putting together the program… the list goes on and on. So much work and heart goes into putting on the very best program. I can’t believe that Kate, my incredible supervisor (and Director of Development at The Next Door), took on this event herself for more than four years. It is by no means an easy feat to pull off!
I know those who were there would agree that the program was moving and powerful. In my eyes, one of the most powerful moments of the program was Morgan Coyner’s speech. For those who don’t know, Morgan is my co-worker at TND, but she also shares an office with me. Morgan shared the story of her mom who unexpectedly lost her life to an opioid overdose just a few months ago. Her mother kept her addiction a secret for at least 12 years. There was not a dry eye in the room at the conclusion of Morgan’s speech. It was raw; it was vulnerable, and it was RELATABLE. There was something about Morgan’s story that allowed people in the room to understand that our clients aren’t just ‘addicts.’ They are one of us. They are daughters, sisters, wives, grandmas, nieces, and friends. We are no different than our clients and women who struggle with addiction. I know hundreds of people in the room related to Morgan’s story.
Another incredible takeaway from the Fall Benefit was hearing two former clients speak about how The Next Door is a “different” kind of treatment center. Through meetings with Jami and Brittney before the Benefit and hearing them share their stories on stage, I learned that women in prison talk about The Next Door as a place where there is a glimmer of hope for them. Women in prison cells and in hopeless places share that there is hope in this building. Hope really does live in the walls of The Next Door. Brittney mentioned that she felt the spiritual presence in our building as soon as she walked through the front door. Other clients have echoed this thought, even though many enter in an altered state of mind. There is something so beautiful about how 15 years ago, this ministry began through the obedience of a handful of women to whom God spoke His desire for The Next Door. It is evident that the Lord has blessed this ministry and His hand is on it.
The Lord is doing so many beautiful things here at The Next Door. The Fall Benefit is just one of the many avenues used to show hundreds of people how God is moving day in and day out. I will never take the privilege of coordinating such a special event lightly. What I have learned in the last 8 months at The Next Door and through the Fall Benefit is no matter who she is, or where she comes from, she is no different than you or me. She is one of us. And The Next Door is providing hope for women in dark places.
If you weren’t able to attend the benefit, you can watch it here.