Saturday, 03 August 2013 13:11

Update: Mary Ellenís Hearth The Ministryís Impact One Year Later

Written by  Rachel Fisher
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Just one year ago, Mary Ellen’s Hearth opened its doors in the Nellie Burge Community Center in the heart of Montgomery. With the desire to offer hope, help and healing to the homeless women and children of Montgomery, the staff provides an environment that allows women to focus on rebuilding their lives successfully. And it’s not just a shelter or a transitional home. Mary Ellen’s Hearth allows women to dream and pursue an independent lifestyle, one where they aren’t worried about the things that pertain to basic survival, like a place to sleep and food to eat. Instead it allows them to open up their minds and hearts to all that God has for them. In this way, they can begin to pursue those things in the comfort of a place they call home for up to two years before they begin the transition to true independent living.


Sharmane Cotton is one of those women. Sharmane says she took great pride in being able to take care of her needs without help from anyone. She held a good job and was raised in a loving home. But almost one year ago, she lost her job and was facing eviction from her home where she and her four-year-old son Jeremiah lived. Eventually, she was kicked out and living in her car. It was through a conversation with one of her pastors that she found out about a place called Mary Ellen’s Hearth.


“I came kicking and screaming,” says Sharmane, “but I came.” She says it was her pride and her unwillingness to let anyone into her personal life that was the most threatened. After a tearful interview with executive director Debbie Dobbins, Sharmane moved in and began to experience what she calls a complete life change. The initial shock of moving into Mary Ellen’s Hearth caused Sharmane to ask herself how she got here. And the answers caused her to enter into a depressed and saddened state that kept her at a distance from the other women.


But it wasn’t long until Sharmane realized the staff truly wanted to help her and the other women shared her same plight and experiences. “I started to realize all these other women were in the same position I was and maybe we could help each other and encourage one another,” she says. This realization allowed her to experience community and friendship with the other women and come to a place of peace with her situation. Today, Sharmane says she is not ashamed of her testimony and knows it encourages other women who find themselves full of pride about their situations.


Through partnerships with Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church, BB&T Bank and a handful of other organizations, Sharmane and women like her are being introduced to a completely new way to do life.  From classes on parenting and relationships to more intense courses like Getting Ahead, offered by Frazer, the women are learning about themselves in new ways and seeing the difference in their lives. Sharmane is pursuing her new found entrepreneurial spirit and has big dreams for her and her son’s future. She is just one example of many the staff at Mary Ellen’s Hearth is seeing transformed by the ministry taking place at the Nellie Burge Center, which currently houses eight women and 16 children.


There are many ways you or your group can be involved in what God is doing through Mary Ellen’s Hearth at Nellie Burge. Visit their website at or call their office at 334-264-4108 to learn more.



Rachel Fisher loves learning what God is doing around her and writing about it. She and her husband, Chase, live in Montgomery.



Last modified on Saturday, 03 August 2013 13:16
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