Her Story

The following post is a true story written by Leroy Lamar, Executive Director of Serenity’s Steps.  Names have been omitted to protect privacy.  

It was just after 6AM when the vibrations from my cell phone pulled me out of my feeble sleep. My night was pathetic for two reasons. First, I had just gone to bed at 3AM because my firstborn kept waking up every 30-40 minutes. Second, when I did manage to fall asleep, my dreams were a weird combination of Sean Austin and Monique Coleman’s tweets mixed with fears that my firstborn was going to wake up again. When I looked at the phone and saw Her name, I knew something was really wrong because she never calls this early. She adores my wife and kids and is very protective of our family, so it had to be an emergency. I answered the phone trying to sound awake, but the crackle in my voice gave me away as I said hello. Her voice crackled back but it wasn’t the crackle of just waking up. It was the crackle of a raw throat caused by a lack of sleep and lots of screaming and yelling.

“Leroy, I didn’t mean to wake you,” She whispered into the phone, “but I can’t stay here any longer. Please call me when you wake up. I need you.”

She hung up and I drifted back to sleep. There was a time when I wouldn’t have been able to go back to sleep. I would have been so worried about Her safety that I would have gotten up. But I know that if the situation had been that urgent, She would have told me and I would have been by Her side instantaneously. Because She told me to call Her back, I knew that all She needed was to know that I knew She needed me. It’s complicated, I know.

When I finally got myself in a place where I could really process Her situation, I quickly realized that our options were extremely limited. Both Her funds and ours were low. We might be able to put Her in an extended stay for a week, but this would empty our bank account. She could crash at our place. It would save us some money and besides, the boys haven’t seen their “Auntie” in a while. But Her strong sense of independence wouldn’t allow Her to keep relying on us like that. To be completely honest, I don’t want Her relying on us like that either. If there’s one thing I don’t want to destroy, it’s Her sense of self- reliance. She’s worked too hard to rebuild it. I’d much rather help establish Her in Her own place, but this requires Her to have a job and jobs for women like Her are still very difficult to come by.

I called Her back to ask if She wouldn’t mind staying with Janelle and I until we could find something more permanent for Her.

“I found a place to stay,” She said somewhat cheerfully. “It’s a rooming house not too far from where I am now.”

My heart sank. Not another rooming house. In theory, I’m not opposed to rooming houses. They allow people with checkered pasts to get housing. The problem with rooming houses, at least the ones in our neighborhood, is they also attract those whose checkered past is still their present. Many rooming houses are trap houses and brothels. She’s trying to get Her life together and that kind of environment may be more harmful than helpful. But again, our options are limited. We have to work with what we have.

“Let’s do this,” I respond. “Let’s go to the coffee shop and think this through. I want to look at all our options before we make a decision.”

She agreed.

To Be Continued…


Launch of That Grace Restored Etsy Shop!

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At That Grace Restored we come together with women marred by the commercial sex industry to provide space for them to find their original purpose and intrinsic beauty by creating high quality handmade products. We are pleased to announce that as of today, October 24, 2013, That Grace Restored’s Etsy shop is live!  We are extremely proud and thankful for all the hard work that has gone into making this happen, and for the hands that have crafted the paper and bound the journals that we are able to offer for sale today.  Please visit our Etsy shop, browse our product and place your orders!


Join the Community! First Annual Golf Classic

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How do we foster community?  Is it by sharing a home cooked meal, talking and laughing together?  Is it through participating in a sport, joining with new people to form a team, all for the love of the game?  Or is it by uniting over a common goal, working together to drive it forward?  We believe community is built by all of the above; quality time, teamwork and acting on collective beliefs, all of which are encompassed in our First Annual Golf Classic.

Serenity’s Steps is hosting a golf tournament at Durham Lakes Golf and Country Club on October 26 to raise support for the launch of That Grace Restored, our handmade goods company that will employ women we work with who have recently left the commercial sex industry.  We still need several items listed on our Amazon Wish List that people may donate, and proceeds from the tournament will go to purchase the remaining tools.

We are currently in need of hole sponsorships, prizes and teams of four to participate in the tournament.  Joseph Starr, a resident of College Park helping to organize the tournament and playing the course that day as part of a team believes that working with Serenity’s Steps is an important opportunity to address issues in the community that will not improve if left on their own.  After being connected by a mutual friend with Leroy Lamar, Executive Director of Serenity’s Steps about nine months ago, Joseph has been using his organizational talents and love of golf to assist in planning the event.  Joseph and his family moved to College Park with the intention of becoming involved in local ministries.  “The idea of making people’s lives better really appeals to me. I enjoy watching people improve and better themselves. There are a lot of let downs, people always let you down when you try and help, but if the Lord doesn’t have it for them to change then they won’t. You need someone like Leroy to do it and if I can’t do it with my two jobs I’ll support people who can,” he said of why he chose to support Serenity’s Steps through the golf tournament.

Tracy Christian who works in marketing and resides in Rockmart was similarly motivated to form a team of four golfers to play in the tournament.  She learned about Serenity’s Steps from coworker Janelle Lamar, Leroy’s wife.  Based on her personal experience with a survivor of the commercial sex industry and her knowledge of the issue, she believes that the majority of women who work in prostitution are not there by choice, but feel like there are no other options and that they do not have a way out.  For that reason, she supports the work of Serenity’s Steps to help women through that transition and assist in creating a personalized plan for their future.  In regard to why she feels it is important to be involved Tracy said, “Any community is the sum of its parts. When we help community members, we improve the community by default. Individuals come away from this experience with a faith in fellow humans that they may not have experienced in the past. Typically, people who’ve been helped go on to help others… What Janelle and Leroy are doing requires a lot of community and business support and like everything else, money. It’s just one way that I can help them to reach their financial goals.”

For more information on you, your business or your organization sponsoring a hole, providing prizes or forming a team please visit our event website.

We hope to see you there for food, fellowship and fun on October 26!



Our Story

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On New Year’s Eve, 2004, most Atlanta residents were enjoying last holiday gatherings with family and friends, eating the remains of the Christmas turkey leftovers or preparing midnight extravaganzas to ring in the New Year.  Leroy and Janelle Lamar chose to spend their holiday a little differently. Picking up and leaving the comfort of their home in Stone Mountain, they braved the December cold to embark on the new journey of moving to the Capitol View neighborhood in southern Atlanta.

Capitol View isn’t exactly counted among the top recommended residences in the city as it suffers from rampant poverty and crime.  However, people who reside here are at heart no different from those living in the most affluent communities.  Each of us has an important story to tell of our struggle and search for healing.  We all desire the dignity of being heard.

Leroy and Janelle chose to listen to the voices of their neighbors in their new community.   They, along with their family friends, took Ball Park hotdogs and a Coleman grill to their street corner and invited their neighbors to eat and fellowship with them.  The cookout became a weekly tradition and as a result Leroy and Janelle developed authentic relationships with people in their community, particularly women working in prostitution.  Through these friendships, Leroy and Janelle learned women’s stories; stories of abuse, neglect, trafficking and coercion.  Many women told stories of broken homes, of poverty and addiction.  Each one had lost her sense of worth and dignity, if she had even been fortunate enough to have it cultivated in the first place.

Knowing something had to be done and feeling God’s irresistible pull at their hearts as they pondered Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan and His command to love our neighbor, Leroy and Janelle welcomed many women struggling to leave prostitution into their home, providing them with a place to sleep, rides to doctor’s appointments and social service offices, and someone to talk to that could help them figure our their best next step.  From this “good neighboring”, Serenity’s Steps, Inc., a registered 501(c)(3) was born to fill a gap in services offered to women in the sex industry in Atlanta.  We believe not everyone fits into or thrives in a fixed program setting.  Although many quality programs exist, very few organizations offer low entry requirement transitional housing where staff works alongside women to evaluate their skills and dreams to develop a personalized practical plan for the future.

Today, Serenity’s Steps exists to provide authentic relationships to support persons in the commercial sex industry with the desire to see them attain the truly good life.  Or in other words, a life influenced by the grace and love of the Gospel as well as assisted by practical services. Leroy and Janelle, as well as the Serenity’s Steps staff strive to accomplish this by staying true to our origins of living as good neighbors to women in the commercial sex industry and loving them as Jesus does.

Our current initiatives include obtaining a building for use as a safe house for women leaving prostitution and launching That Grace Restored, a handmade goods company that will provide sustainable employment and a fair wage for women with whom we work.  To find out more about how you can get involved and to give, please visit our website!