A place of empowerment

H.O.P.E.E. House is hosting its first 3K Walk for Women in Recovery to raise awareness of addiction

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

The quaint white house at 200 Otter St. in Bristol looks like an average home. A sunlit living room greets all who walk through the door, plush couches hold colorful pillows and throws, and a large dining room table is meticulously decorated with golden placemats. But this isn’t a typical house. It’s H.O.P.E.E. House, a place for women to gain empowerment while in the recovery process. On Saturday, Sept. 30, H.O.P.E.E. will host its first 3K Walk for Women in Recovery to raise awareness of addiction in the community.

Providing hope: Drucilla Van Wright is the founder and director of H.O.P.E.E. House and uses her own experiences with addiction recovery to help women in similar situations. PHOTO: H.O.P.E.E. House

Celebrating its one-year anniversary this September, H.O.P.E.E. House, which stands for “helping other people endure by empowerment,” has helped 120 women since opening its doors. Founder and director Drucilla Van Wright had a vision of creating a transitional space to help recovering women feel whole again and eventually live on their own, all without relapsing.

“You don’t have to relapse to recover,” she said.

When creating H.O.P.E.E. House, which is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Van Wright wanted its foundation to be an atmosphere of love, acceptance and inspiration. She didn’t want to open a recovery home that was just like the rest.

Though standard requirements are met such as meetings and curfews, the house is a nurturing environment. Family dinner, which many residents never experienced prior to coming to H.O.P.E.E., takes place each evening at 6 p.m. Friday nights are reserved for group movie nights, which are complete with popcorn and snacks.

With nurturing also comes structure, and Van Wright takes many steps to help the women get back on their feet. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., the women must be out of the house either at a job or hunting for one. Thanks to a partnership with CareerLink, H.O.P.E.E. residents receive assistance in making connections in the community and writing resumes. Van Wright maintains a rack of donated pants, skirts and blouses in the house so they can look professional when going on interviews.

Most residents live in the house for six months, though sometimes it’s less or more depending on the woman. To stay, they must possess a desire to remain clean. For Van Wright, it’s all about staying vigilant and working on it daily. It’s not an overnight fix.

As someone who had to face her own demons years ago with time spent in two rehab facilities, Van Wright understands the difficulty addicts face in admitting they have a problem. Many are ashamed and try to sweep it under the carpet, pretending it’s not there.

“It’s the best-kept secret,” she said.

The only way to help those suffering from addiction is to not just talk about it, but to do something about it. This is where the 3K Walk for Women in Recovery comes into play. Taking place on the last day of September, which is National Recovery Month, Van Wright hopes the issues raised and inspiration felt will carry through the rest of the year.

Residents and staff of H.O.P.E.E. House will be present at the walk, though it is first and foremost a community event for Bucks County and beyond. Kicking off at 9:15 a.m., walkers will travel along the Bristol Spurline. Afterward, a special memorial ceremony will be held. Attendees can release purple balloons into the sky to honor loved ones who lost the battle to addiction.

Van Wright’s goal is to have 100 registrants and raise $2,000. All proceeds will go toward maintaining H.O.P.E.E. House. Right now, most of the rent and utilities comes from her own pocket. Though there is a weekly fee to live in the house, some women aren’t able to secure a job for at least two weeks, and are unable to pay until then.

“It’s a challenge but I wouldn’t trade it,” she said.

Despite some struggles and setbacks, Van Wright is proud to say her successes outweigh the negatives when it comes to the women. Drawing a carefully preserved handwritten letter from her purse, she explained how many past residents will write to thank her for the caring environment she provided when they needed it most.

Looking back on her own experiences with addiction, Van Wright believes she was meant to go through that for the larger purpose of helping other women find hope again. Because of her journey, the residents work to give back as well. This fall, they will speak at local school assemblies about the horrors of addiction to make students aware of what can happen if they choose the same path.

Van Wright also plans to host training sessions for parents. Many aren’t aware of certain behaviors of addiction, and she wants them to be prepared to intervene if their child starts to exhibit them.

Through her organization and community events, Van Wright’s mission is to make the public educated and aware of the current epidemic.

“It’s just like cancer,” she said. “It’s just as important but it’s looked at differently because it’s illegal.”

The 3K Walk for Women in Recovery will take place Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9 a.m. to noon along the Bristol Spurline (exact start location TBD). Pre-registration cost is $20 by Sept. 15 and $25 after this date until the morning of the walk. Fee can be paid by mailing a check payable to H.O.P.E.E. House Inc. at 200 Otter St., Bristol, PA 19007, or online through PayPal using HOPEEHOUSEInc@gmail.com at paypal.com/va/webapps/mpp/send-money-online. For information, visit hopeehouse.org, facebook.com/hopeehouse or call 866–496–0064. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com