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Sept. 19 benefit dinner will support Doll’s House

One young woman was an opioid addict by the time she was 11.

Another had been dropped off at an orphanage in the Ukraine, and wound up in the U.S. homeless and unable to speak English.

Another ran over her abusive boyfriend with a car.

Yet another was a victim of human trafficking.

They and other young women who live at the Doll’s House in Brookhaven are turning their lives around and attending or graduating college or earning a GED.

Most had no choice to live at the transitional home, but were court-ordered to avail themselves of the services in lieu of spending time in prison, or were sent there through a referral from another institute.

“All of them came with little or no knowledge of who God is, and at least one was an atheist,” said Stephanie Turner, co-founder and director of the Doll’s House and Women in Transition prison ministry.

Some of the residents will tell their stories at the eighth annual benefit dinner for the ministry Sept. 19 at the Lincoln Civic Center.

Tickets are $30 per person or $300 to sponsor a table. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program starts at 6:30 p.m.

Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Pelicia Hall will be the guest speaker.

“My heart is for women in transition,” Turner said. “Sometimes if you just give women in need a hand up, they can do it.”

“We have five corporate sponsors. We accept donations and God makes it all happen.”

Years ago, Turner’s mother, Darlene “Doll” Slater, took in girls that nobody wanted, such as girls who had babies and nowhere to go.

Her home was known as Miss Doll’s House or Miss Slater’s House.

Seven years ago, Turner and her husband Johnnie opened the Darlene “Doll” Slater Rehabilitation Center for Women, more commonly known as the Doll’s House.

It’s a not-for-profit organization that aims to help women at risk learn life survival skills, have educational and career opportunities and to empower them to be all they can be.

“These ladies are allowed to live like they’ve never had an opportunity to live,” Stephanie Turner said.

The house now has its first victim of human trafficking, thanks to the District Attorney’s Office and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.

“I knew it was coming because human trafficking has been around for years, and the victims often have no way out,” she said.

The campus has a farm and the residents help grow and gather vegetables. Tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and green peppers are just a part of their crops this summer.

Those who don’t know how to cook are learning to cook. That’s especially helpful since some of the women have been reunited with their children, who now live with them on the campus in a home-like setting.

Stephanie Turner takes the women into town so they can do their own laundry.

“The whole process is aimed at helping them become self-sufficient,” she said.

The women visit churches and tell their stories. They volunteer for fundraisers, such as helping at the Exchange Club Fair. They recently took a supply of hygiene products to the Brookhaven School District to be given to students who need them.

Turner shuttles the women back and forth to school, doctor’s appointments, lawyer’s visits and court.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “They’re schedules become my schedules.”

Most of the women attend Copiah-Lincoln County Community College.

One woman received a scholarship to attend Mississippi College in Clinton. She has completed her first semester and made the dean’s list. She is studying to become a psychologist.

“We are all so elated for her,” she said.

Turner also drives her back and forth to the private Christian college. That’s a trip of an hour and 15 minutes each way. She does business by phone out of her car, and is back in town in time to pick up the rest of the women from school. Then it’s on to dinner preparations, homework, baths and bedtime.

Since most women don’t come to the Doll’s House by choice, they are scared, Turner said.

“We deal with the soil and the seed,” she said, referring to spirituality as well as the farm.

“It’s hard for some of them to get adjusted, but we till that hard soil, and then we plant seeds and water them, and then we see beautiful things sprout out. What God is doing in these women is simply amazing.”

Turner also runs a Women in Transition program for female inmates who are nearing the end of their prison terms at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl. She and her husband and some of her residents visit with the inmates, and a retired educator volunteers to help prepare the inmates for their GED.

“All of this is possible because of God,” she said. “We live in a community that believes in hope, and our corporate sponsors are committed to helping women transition, to blossom into new lives that they once thought was impossible.”

For more information, contact Stephanie Turner at 601-291-8757, or Johnnie Turner at 601-519-3546.

Story by Robin Eyman