By Debbonnaire Kovacs, posted Sept. 16, 2015

[Editor’s Note: You can help Kim Carter and her Time for Change Foundation help more women by clicking on her CNN Hero video clip here. Watch every day and help women with no effort on your part. But don’t stop there. Read this article and be inspired to find Christ-like ways of being the change you want to see in the world.]

There are many organizations attempting to help homeless people and released prisoners trying to return to society. It’s fair to say that most of the people working in those organizations probably feel that their efforts are very small drops in a very large ocean. In particular, it is extremely difficult to give help that is practical—that works—that brings real change into the lives of people so that they no longer fall back into long-ingrained habits of thought, emotion, self-image, and behavior.

Some manage that.

According to Kim Carter, Executive Director of The Time for Change Foundation, most of the over 800 women (so far) that have gone through her program don’t come back. “Their lives are changed.”

Last year Time for Change received Loma Linda University Health’s Community Investment Award, a yearly recognition for a local charitable organization providing great service to women. When I asked her about that, Carter said, “Loma Linda works with women who have been scarred and healed, and sees that our program is very successful. They see these women for years coming into the Emergency Room with black eyes, then when they go through this service, they see how their lives are changed.”

In other words, it works. Why? As reported that January in the Westside Story Newspaper [link], the Time for Change Foundation helps “homeless women and children achieve self-sufficiency by using a strength-based approach to address their needs. The Foundation’s programs and supportive services help to provide women and their children with the tools necessary to recover from homelessness, drug addiction, family separation, mental and physical abuse, and the effects of incarceration.  Through these services, women are taught how to live healthy, fit, successfully productive lives.” [Emphasis added.]

In other words, instead of handing out fish, Time for Change helps people learn to fish.

When notified of that award, Carter expressed her joy, calling Loma Linda “a pillar in the community” and saying that their recognition “lets us know that we are on the right path in ensuring that all women have access to healthy lives.”

It seems likely that one big reason this organization is so successful is that Carter herself knows where the women she works with are coming from. You can read more about her life story, her first drink at five years old, her first hit of crack cocaine at seventeen, the spiral fall through prison, prostitution, and homelessness, at CNN’s site. You’ll read of her realization that it was time for a change, her entrance into the program that first helped her, her loss of years with her daughter, her joy and pride in the recovered relationship today, and her determination that it won’t happen to another mother if she can help it.

However, for Adventist Today readers, it might be particularly poignant to learn that more than a few of the women coming through the Foundation are Adventists. “We don’t ask about religious beliefs,” Carter told me. “We do ask if they have special needs, and we learn that they have dietary restrictions and want Sabbath rest. That’s how we find out women are Adventist.”

She told me a story of Sheila (not her real name), who was raised Seventh-day Adventist near the Loma Linda area. Her family was “deeply involved” in the church, holding leadership positions. “I think it started with her becoming involved with a bad guy, then she got into drugs.” Carter said Sheila felt so ashamed at letting down her family that she didn’t feel she could go back to church.

“I found my faith through the Twelve Step Program,” Carter told me, “so I never had that sense of obligation to a certain denomination. I just couldn’t understand that church wouldn’t be the first place you’d go when you fall down. She was just adamant that she would be met with disdain and judgment.”

I asked, “Did she ever get over that?”

Carter seemed sad as she replied, “She didn’t get over that while she was here. Her mom would visit, but apparently her dad was not so forgiving. She got her life back together, but she was not able to bring herself to go back to church.”

Fortunately, some of the staff at Time for Change are Adventist, so I hope Carter gets a chance to see that not all Adventists are like that. But at this point she waxed so eloquent on the subject of grace that I’ll let her speak for herself.

“A lot of that [shame] is from self, from issues and low self-esteem, but if we don’t let people know it’s okay to fall down and get back up, they will never be able to get back up! Those from religious backgrounds have been given rules for living, but they don’t have enough instruction about what to do when you don’t do those rules. If God forgives you, it doesn’t matter about anybody else. You don’t need to go through a middle man. You have to have your own relationship. I wasn’t able to go one day without drinking until I got a relationship with God—get away from what someone said about God and get your own relationship with a God who can take away those cravings that make you drink and do drugs when you don’t even want to. The brain repeats unhealthy talk; only God can get between you and that.”

Carter told me she is now “twenty-two years clean and sober and free from incarceration.” Her advice for recovery: giving to others, making amends quickly, and finding other ways of being healthy, particularly in the Twelve Step Program.

But I felt the gem was right there—tell people it’s okay to fall down and get up again.

—You can help the Foundation reach out to more women. This year, Kim Carter has been chosen as a CNN Hero, a program CNN created in 2007 “to honor individuals who make extraordinary contributions to humanitarian aid and make a difference in their communities.” You can watch her short video clip here, and by so doing, give her a vote. If our votes help her reach the top ten, Time for a Change will receive $25,000 (last year’s data). Votes will be tallied by October 2. After that, if she makes it, she will have the chance to try for Hero of the Year, and $100,000 (last year’s data). This would be an enormous help to the women the foundation serves, and you can vote every day.

You can also go to her own website and click on the CNN link on the front page, which might load more quickly. Besides, there is a lot more information there about ways you can get involved, not to mention many photos.

There is a slightly longer, more detailed video about Kim Carter’s life here.

Our Music News writer, Carole Derry-Bretsch, has also created a Facebook page to promote the Foundation here.