Sharing H.O.P.E. Center aims to help victims of crimes, others who are hurting

'We really and truly care about people'

CINCINNATI -- Lorraine Whoberry understands the pain of loss so terrible that it never goes away completely.

It was 1999 when a man named Paul Powell attacked her two teenage daughters in their home. He had been stalking her 16-year-old and tried to rape her before he plunged a knife into her chest and killed her. When Whoberry's 14-year-old got home, Powell made her strip naked before he raped her then slashed her throat and left her for dead.

The younger girl survived and identified her attacker. Powell was caught, convicted and executed in Virginia in 2010.

"It closed a chapter in our lives, and it brought healing in our lives," said Whoberry, who now lives in the Tri-State. "But it's a life sentence, and I had to learn how to live it."

The center includes a display of victims' photos.

Whoberry's family tragedy -- and how she and her now 32-year-old daughter managed to survive it -- make her the ideal person to help others through unspeakable loss and pain, said Paula Bussard, co-pastor of New Hope Ministries in Colerain Township.

That's why she and Whoberry founded the Sharing H.O.P.E. Center, a place designed to help people from all walks of life heal from all sorts of pain, loss and grief. The center is part of the work of Neighborhoods Embracing Transformation, or NET, an organization that Bussard also co-founded.

"People who have encountered any kind of pain -- whether it's domestic violence, divorce or losing their mother -- they're oftentimes reluctant to talk to anybody about it," Bussard said. "But when people hear her story, it's like, OK, anybody who has experienced what she has experienced can certainly empathize with me."

The center will hold its formal grand opening on April 8, the same day it hosts an event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for National Crime Victims' Rights Week. The event, which is free and open to the public, will feature speakers on victims' rights and advocacy, a one-mile walk to raise awareness and the chance to learn about community resources to prevent crime and support survivors of crime.

'All about connecting people'

Holly Schlaack will be one of the presenters that day. Schlaack is founder and executive director of Invisible Kids Project, a nonprofit that advocates for change in the child welfare system.

She aims to talk to people on April 8 about how so many of society's problems are interrelated and should be addressed holistically with concern for the community as the driving force. That's exactly the philosophy behind the Sharing H.O.P.E. Center, she said.

A sign related to the April 8 event.

"They are all about connecting people. They're about creating a space for people to come and be supported and to be welcomed," Schlaack said. "We live in such a disconnected society. So to have a place of support like that -- it doesn't cost a ton of money -- but it's one of the most valuable things we can offer people."

The center is located at New Hope Ministries. It's a small, freshly painted room adjacent to the space where Bussard and her husband, Larry, hold worship services and community gatherings.

When Bussard and Whoberry quietly opened the center in December, their goal was to have maybe 20 clients after the first six months.

Instead they had more than 30 people seeking their help within the first 90 days. They have helped struggling mothers, children and people who are trying beat addictions to heroin. The Bussards even have hosted a couple of clients in their home in Milford between the clients' stints in rehab, Bussard said.

She views the center as another way that Neighborhoods Embracing Transformation is working to reduce poverty.

Holly Schlaack, left, talks with Paula Bussard and Lorraine Whoberry.

"Any time you're facing some major challenge in your life, you are experiencing poverty in some way," she said.

The way the NET organization sees it, there are four ways to be poor: financially; motivationally; relationally; and spiritually.

The group held a conference last fall to explore those different types of poverty and try to come up with ways to address them in communities across the region.

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Colerain Township has become something of a pilot community for those efforts, Bussard said, and the new Sharing H.O.P.E. Center provides a hub for the work.

"Our major role at the Sharing H.O.P.E. Center is to connect our clients with the resources they need with a personal connection," Whoberry said. "If you're suffering from something, you're not going to have an inclination for where to turn. We can connect them to whatever need they have and walk them through that process."

The choice: Better or bitter

The needs can come in many forms, and the center aims to address any and all of them.

The word "H.O.P.E." in the center's name stands for: health and healing; opportunities for employment and advancement; personal wellness and growth; and education and empowerment.

Bussard and Whoberry expect most of their clients will need help in several or all of those areas to learn how to live with the pain they are experiencing and move forward in their lives.

Whoberry knows the journey won't be easy for those who seek help at the center, she said. It certainly wasn't for her.

This worship space is adjacent to the Sharing H.O.P.E. Center.

"So many people don't actually believe they can be healed," she said. "When I went through my tragedy, I felt like I was the only one in the world suffering. Then you begin to isolate yourself, and the problems compound."

It took Whoberry nine years to forgive the man who killed her older daughter and left the younger one for dead. She didn't even consider forgiving Powell for years, she said.

"It wasn't until the seventh year that I realized that in order to find true healing, I had to forgive him," she said.

Along the way, she began talking with others about her story and formed the S.T.A.C.I.E. Foundation, named for her older daughter, to help victims of crime.

"We all make a choice in life," she said. "You either get better or you get bitter. And better is where you find the healing."

Now she and Bussard want to walk alongside others who are in pain, whether that's because they're addicted to drugs or were the victims of crime or had a death in the family.

Neither one is getting paid for the work, Bussard stressed.

"We really and truly care about people, and we really and truly want to help them," she said. "We thrive on the progress that we see victims are making, and hopefully we can play a small part in that."

New Hope Ministries

More information about the Sharing H.O.P.E. Center is available online. Click here to register for the free April 8 event.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. Childhood poverty is an important focus for her and for WCPO. To read more stories about childhood poverty, go to www.wcpo.com/poverty.

To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email lucy.may@wcpo.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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