01/16/07 — Esther's Refuge helping women rebuild lives after serving time

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Esther's Refuge helping women rebuild lives after serving time

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on January 16, 2007 1:47 PM

Wanda Register found out there's life after prison, and now she is helping other women at a group home she has named Esther's Refuge.

Register spent 30 days in a women's prison in Raleigh after violating probation following a drunken driving conviction.

She said her life was in turmoil at the time and that she came close to breaking up her marriage.

Today, thanks to the help she received from others, her life is on track, she said. She wanted to reach out and help other women in the same situation and started Esther's Refuge after deciding that God had a purpose for her.

"God has a purpose in everybody's life. That's my purpose. I went through the crossroad, " she said.

Esther's Refuge, which she considers a crossroad for other women, was the result. The private, non-profit agency, which opened on Atlantic Avenue in June, was named for the biblical character who saved her people in a crisis. It is the only halfway house in this part of the state for women, she said, and the first in Goldsboro.

Marilyn Jefferson entered the six-month program at Esther's in late October on the recommendation of a friend who was entering the program at the time. Since she started there, she has recommended the program to others.

She said she doubts she will return to her old life.

"I was looking for a change," she said. "Esther's has helped me spiritually. It's helped me find myself as well as finding a job."

She said Esther's helps her stay focused on positive things.

"Mrs. Wanda is a good person to talk to," she said. "She gives me a lot of advice. She's been there just to listen. It helps a lot to have somebody to communicate with."

She said if it were not for Esther's Refuge, she would probably be back in Gastonia "under pressure to make fast money."

During the holidays, Esther's Refuge was filled to capacity, with all six beds occupied.

Mrs. Register has been named regional coordinator for the Transition After Care Network, which is headed up by a minister in Raleigh. The network serves 10 counties, and Ms. Register helps find halfway houses for men and women when they leave prison.

"There are more for men, but women need this help, too," she said.

She said she sees things turning around for the women she is helping, and, in turn, for their families.

"I can see the women going to different schools and telling the children about what they've been through, the choices they made. Peer pressure is so strong today. Alcohol and reefer was a choice I made."

For information about Esther's Refuge call 736-7662.