Editor’s note: With an assist from readers, The Star’s editorial board selected five persons who have made a difference in 2015. Stories of the nominees will run this week on the Opinion page, and the Citizen of 2015 will be profiled on Sunday.
Bobbi-Jo Reed spent far too much of her life in the depths. Addicted to drugs and alcohol. Working the streets as a prostitute.
And then came enlightenment and an inspiring turnaround.
More than a dozen years ago — she was in her early 40s at the time — Reed set out not only to change her own life but to try to make a difference for others who had found themselves lost and on the margins.
With a renewed commitment to faith at her side, Reed established a place in Northeast Kansas City where substance abusers could reside, recover and find a positive influence and a new path in life.
In 2015, Reed’s organization, Healing House Inc., continued to thrive and prepared to launch an expansion drive. We’ve known of her work for years and agreed with Rod Bosma, of the Church of the Resurrection, who put her name forward as a candidate for recognition by The Star as a Citizen of 2015 finalist.
“She is probably the most spiritual person I’ve ever met,” said Bosma of Overland Park. “I have never seen anything like it. They have unlocked the secret to recovery.”
Reed made it her mission to rehab abandoned and rundown homes and apartment buildings and turn them into residences for men and women recovering from addiction. She started with an old nursing home in the Northeast area.
Her effort includes pulling people from homelessness and substance abuse and guiding them towards lives as clean, sober productive individuals. Residents and hundreds of alums call her mom. And to their children, she is grandma.
Healing House has served about 2,000 individuals over the years, and the ministry of recovery claims an 80 percent success rate.
About 150 persons are at various Healing House properties now. The family atmosphere insists that in addition to staying clean and sober, residents must find and maintain steady employment, give back to the community, know and serve God and support one another as a traditional family.
Agencies and others refer people to Healing House, which receives about 30 calls a day for help.
Neither religion nor other things are forced on people, said Tom Langhofer, general manager of Rodrock Development and a Healing House board member.
“Everyone who lives there does their work together,” he said. “By giving, you’re receiving. By helping others, you’re helping yourself. It’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up. The goal is to get back on your feet and back in the real world.”
People who need to finish their education get that opportunity. Those who need resume-writing and interview skills get that, too, so they can get jobs and start working. That’s part of the recovery process. As community service, residents prepare and deliver food and other essentials on Christmas and Easter to more than 100 homeless people.
“You guys have nothing and you’re giving to people who have less than you?” Langhofer, a recovering alcoholic, recalled thinking. “That just blows me away.”
Reed’s influence was paramount, he said: “She’s changed my life.”
Pastor Pam Morrison, a retired Methodist minister and member of the Church of the Resurrection, added: “She just embodies love and giving. She’s courageous and bold and gets things done.”
The buildings Healing House has purchased and rehabilitated include three homes for men, four for women, two apartment complexes for families, a day-care and a fellowship hall.
“I love this community,” Reed said of the Northeast area. “This is absolutely where God wanted this ministry to be.”
Judi Burkholder, assistant director and president of the Healing House board, has been with Reed through tough times and has found her to be undeterred.
“She gets a vision in her head and she doesn’t stop until it gets done,” Burkholder said.
Healing House is a private effort funded with grants, corporate contributions, individual donations, a spring auction, a fall harvest banquet, gospel concerts and bake sales.
In January, Healing House will embark on a $3.3 million capital campaign to build a new fellowship hall next to the current structure at Elmwood and St. John avenues. It will increase the capacity for daily group meetings, meals, prayer and recovery efforts from about 100 people to more than 250.
The old fellowship hall then will be remodeled as a café, catering business and market. It will fill an important nutrition gap in the neighborhood, which lacks stores selling fresh produce within easy walking distance. The Healing House businesses will provide jobs for residents.
The second floor of the remodeled fellowship hall will be remade into new apartments.
Reed’s strength is her bottomless ability to inspire residents and volunteers.
“I’m crazy about the ministry because of the results it provides,” said Tim Ehinger, director of fundraising for Healing House.
Reed’s story of redemption, drive, belief and generosity inspires a cadre of volunteers and provides a winning model of what it means to be a good citizen.
Citizens of 2015
With an assist from readers, The Star’s editorial board selected five persons who have made a difference in 2015. Stories of the nominees will run this week on the Opinion page, and the Citizen of 2015 will be profiled on Sunday.