On August 29, 2016, a sunny Monday morning, The Well of Lexington was ready.
After nearly four years of dreaming, researching, planning, and fundraising, we had purchased our first house. The gardens had been lovingly tended, trimmed, and mulched. Generous donors had provided tables, sofas, lamps, artwork, kitchenware, sheets, towels, and beautiful handcrafted quilts for each new bed. Volunteers spent countless hours organizing, arranging, cleaning, and making the house secure. The house was blessed in a very moving ceremony that drew on Jewish, Presbyterian, and Episcopal traditions--a true interfaith celebration.
The dream of a safe space where women who have survived trafficking can heal, advance their educations, and ultimately reclaim their lives, had become a reality in Lexington.
Our journey to this moment began four years ago in November, when a group of people, inspired by Thistle Farms in Nashville, Tennessee, began to imagine a safe and healing space for women here. We wondered:
Is there a need? After researching and interviewing all the related agencies, we concluded that the need for such a facility was great. On the day it opened its doors The Well already had a waiting list.
Where will the women come from? Board members from The Well started leading workshops at the early release program at the Fayette County Detention Center, working with women who clearly met the criteria and would benefit from our program. We are always in conversations with other agencies in Lexington who work with women at risk and can recommend women to us.
How will the women be selected? Our Program Director, Latisha Jackson, working in conjunction with a Board members, has developed a rigorous screening process that identifies women who are homeless, drug-free, and committed to improving their lives—women who can best benefit from The Well.
What will the women do? The Well is a two-year residential program. Once the women arrive, they have six months to rest and heal, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They work with a social worker to register with the social service agencies that will support them, learn to leave peacefully and productively in the house, visit doctors and dentists and attend AA meetings. In the following months, they work to advance their education, earning a GED or taking college classes. The Well is in the process of establishing a social enterprise, where the women will then gain practical job skills and experience they can list take into the world.
What is the first house like? For security reasons we cannot reveal its location, but the house is beautiful, an unobtrusive split level, newly renovated. It’s located near bus lines and shopping in a quiet neighborhood. The rooms are full of
light; the furnishings are spare but elegant; the back yard is peaceful. There is a security system in place, and everything the women need to live simply and comfortably. The house has two communal spaces, one of which can also function as a classroom. The beds are new, and each one is adorned with a beautiful hand-made quilt that the woman who uses it can take with her when she graduates.
How will The Well be funded? We have been moved by the generosity of countless donors who have given monetary gifts, by the volunteers who have helped with our website, grant applications, giving challenges, and the creation of our social enterprise. The Interfaith Coalition moves us also we are establishing to enlist financial and volunteer support from faith communities across central Kentucky. Our fundraising is ongoing, and we are constantly seeking ways to gain support for the vital work of The Well, in addition to ways to make this work more visible in our community.
Who is the Board of The Well, and why do you do this work? The Board of The Well is all volunteer. We were each drawn to this work for different reasons, and we bring many different talents and perspectives to it, but we are cohesive, and we share a deep commitment to both the women we serve and the larger goal of social justice in our community. It’s rewarding to see The Well take shape in the world, to know that this work will impact the lives of many women, and through them, the community as a whole. Yet it’s also impossible to do this work without having one’s own life touched, expanded, and even transformed. The work is challenging, but we come away from it energized rather than depleted.
The Well opened its doors on August 29, 2016, and the women began to arrive. They came with few possessions, with apprehension, determination, and hope. They had survived trafficking, life on the streets, and addiction, and now their paths, each one unique, had brought them here. They walked up the sidewalk to the front door, drawn to The Well by the dream of transforming their lives.
Then, one by one, they stepped inside.
Love heals. We’ve seen it happen.