‘Witness to the Host City’ aids women in rehabilitation treatment, and their children




Youth help out at Annual Conference with the piles of donations for First Step Home in Cincinnati--this year's Witness to the Host City recipient.
Photo by Allie Dulabaum

Youth help out at Annual Conference with the piles of donations for First Step Home in Cincinnati--this year's Witness to the Host City recipient.

Witness to the Host City is an acknowledgment each year in which Annual Conference comes together to give back to a special organization in the host city. This year’s recipient is First Step Home, a women’s rehabilitation facility that allows women to receive treatment while still having custody of their children.

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Founded by Anne Bennett and Mary Ann Heekin, this agency has been helping women and their families since 1993. The facility includes numerous services for both women and children, to help these families get back on their feet. Not only that, First Step Home has an open-lock policy that allows their members to leave and enter freely, helping them to choose a new and healthy lifestyle. These traits of the rehabilitation center are unique compared to other facilities.

Cincinnati Church of the Brethren has a pre-existing relationship to First Step Home. Margo Spence, president and CEO of First Step Home, refers to the Cincinnati church as their “guardian angels.” This established relationship was one of the reasons Annual Conference chose this organization for the 2018 Witness to the Host City. Chris Douglas, Annual Conference director, said that she and her team picked First Step Home also because it is the only rehab organization that allows women with addictions to stay with their children. Commonly in such facilities, women are separated from their children while receiving treatment, and the children are placed in the foster system.

A youth service project sorts and packs up donations

Conference participants were asked to bring basic necessities to donate to First Step Home such as diapers, soap, underwear, towels, and socks, as well as donations in either money or gift cards. Large piles of items were brought and collected during Wednesday and Thursday of Annual Conference. On Friday, the senior high youth activity was to sort the donations and organize them to be sent to First Step Home as a service project.

During the Friday business session, after Margo Spence thanked the denomination for its support, it was announced that the amount of money donated was $4,872.05. In addition, 867 gift cards brought the total monetary donations to $9,492.75.

In a historical note, the last time Annual Conference was in Cincinnati in 1996, the Witness to the Host City was a “blitz build” of 3 Habitat for Humanity houses in 10 days. Millard Fuller, who was then the president of Habitat, attended an Annual Conference luncheon where he thanked the Brethren construction workers and the denomination for its service.

-- Allie Dulabaum contributed this report.


For more onsite coverage of Annual Conference go to www.brethren.org/ac/2018/coverage .

The news coverage of Annual Conference 2018 is made possible through the work of communications staff and a volunteer news team: Frank Ramirez, Conference Journal editor; photographers Glenn Riegel, Regina Holmes, Keith Hollenberg, Donna Parcell, Laura Brown; writers Frances Townsend, Karen Garrett, Alyssa Parker; youth team member Allie Dulabaum; web staff Jan Fischer Bachman, Russ Otto; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of News Services; Wendy McFadden, publisher. Contact cobnews@brethren.org.

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