It has taken a year’s time, but a Seymour woman never gave up on what she said God put in her heart to accomplish.
That’s because the goal and mission is too important and the need too great, she said.
Joni Zabel has found a home for Cherished Inc., the nonprofit organization she founded in 2016 to help women and girls in Jackson County overcome life-controlling issues and realize their worth.
On the outside, the white house at 708 W. Second St. next to Kovener’s Korner is unassuming and quite ordinary. But inside is where Zabel said miracles are taking place, and with support and love from God and each other, women are changing their lives in extraordinary ways and taking a new path to freedom from that which controls and imprisons them.
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“It’s everything I’ve been praying for for over a year,” Zabel said.
For many of the women, the controlling factor is substance abuse, but there are many other issues Cherished is helping women address, including grief and trauma, stress, eating disorders, abuse, feelings of being alone, poverty and/or homelessness, unplanned pregnancies and thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Zabel herself has battled depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and other strongholds in her life as a result of abuse she experienced, she said. She found the answer to her struggles by turning to God and now has dedicated her life’s work to helping other women do the same.
Being an addict is not an “act of rebellion” or the actions of a bad person, Zabel said. It starts somewhere, and usually, that somewhere is a trauma that has occurred in the person’s life, which they haven’t dealt with properly, she said.
“They’re trying to self-medicate to make it go away or it could be that they are ashamed,” she said. “And drugs are an easier way to do it than other means sometimes.”
By discovering and dealing with the root causes of an addiction in a godly way, there is a much better outcome than trying to address the addiction alone, Zabel said.
Cherished offers support groups, prayer meetings, classes and other resources focused on assisting women working through their issues.
The groups are now meeting at the new Cherished office, which provides a large and small conference room along with what Zabel calls a private prayer room. The new location is an environment for women to feel safe, loved and not judged for their situations.
Eventually, Zabel hopes to be able to offer a nine- to 12-month residential program at a separate location to provide safe, healing and supportive housing to women along with life skills classes as they recover and build their relationship with God.
There is no cost to attend any of Cherished’s classes or support groups, and all are confidential, Zabel said.
One of the classes being offered is a six- to 12-week class on dealing with grief facilitated by Barbara Castetter. It is open to the community and anyone who may feel they need help.
“This is for any woman who is going through grief, for whatever reason, the loss of a spouse or a child,” she said.
Castetter lost her husband 14 years ago and said she benefited greatly from attending grief classes then.
Grief can play a major role in many of the controlling factors in people’s lives without them realizing it, she said.
“You don’t now how to deal with it, and it just leads to other things, like substance abuse for some people,” she said.
One of the biggest hurdles is understanding that it takes time to heal, Castetter said.
“It took me a while to get there,” she said. “But when I finally realized Jesus is the only one that can help, then my life started improving, and my grief started to lessen.”
All programs offered by Cherished are Christ-centered and based on Scripture.
“So not only are they learning about the grief process, they are learning about the Bible, too,” Castetter said. “We want them to know Christ.”
Castetter first learned of Cherished while she was working part time at Anchor House Family Assistance Center and Pantry in Seymour.
“I think it’s just awesome,” she said of the ministry. “Seymour really needs it.”
It doesn’t take much to see that people are hurting and are in need of help, Zabel said.
“It’s everywhere,” she said. “The overdoses are out of control. The jail is overcrowded.”
Zabel also reaches out to women who are incarcerated, providing prayer, Bible study and resources to help them while in jail and when they are released.
“A lot of time, it’s trying to find them housing or connecting them with other groups and resources that can help them,” she said. “Whether they follow through is on them.”
But even if a woman falls back into addiction, Cherished is there to help them find the right path again, Zabel said.
“We’re building trust in the community for those struggling with addiction,” she said.
Zabel said the search for an office had led her to look at a building in downtown Seymour, but the available space was on the second floor and didn’t work out.
She had shared her vision for Cherished with her neighbors, Mike and Soni Birch, who own an antiques business downtown.
It wasn’t long before Mike gave Zabel another lead on a property. Mike had heard the owners of the white house next to Kovener’s Korner were wanting to rent it out.
“It was not set up as a house. It was set up as a business or office space,” Zabel said. “But it had been empty for a year.”
Zabel said the owner was excited and eager to help Cherished.
Having an office gives Cherished one set location for classes instead of having to find a different place to conduct them each week.
“And we’ll be able to offer more,” Zabel said. “Our goal is really to have at least one group Monday through Friday, and we have the space to do two.”
Sally Daggy, a Cherished board member, facilitates the Keys to Freedom class, a nine-week study for women who are struggling to overcome their strongholds. The class was formerly called Ditch the Baggage.
What surprised Daggy is that many of those attending the group are of an older generation.
“Many times, the older women have been dealing with issues all their lives and have never had a support group,” Daggy said. “I have never met so many lonely, older or mature women.
“Many of these women have children and grandchildren who are facing issues, too,” Daggy added. “So not only do they have their own issues they’ve been dealing with for the last 40 to 60 years, they have their loved ones going through issues, and they’re concerned about them, too.”
Daggy said attendance can vary from just one woman to upward of a dozen.
“I figure if we help just one person, then that’s one more person helped,” she said. “And if that’s all that comes our way, that’s fine.”
After taking the Ditch the Baggage class herself through the Aglow International program, Daggy said she decided to become a facilitator because she saw the need in the community to help support and guide people with God through their struggles.
In December, Cherished will begin a Concerned Persons group, which Zabel believes will be popular in the community. That class is being led by Albert and Christy Stormes, who recently started a similar group in Jennings County.
The Concerned Persons group study is focused on supporting the friends, families and loved ones of those battling addictions and other issues.
“This particular study is designed for families that in one way or another have suffered through somebody in their family with addiction,” Albert said. “Myself, I am an adult child of an alcoholic parent.”
Concerned Persons is not only a support group but provides people with a spiritual basis in addressing the issues as a family, Albert said.
“The biggest misconception is that we can fix an addict, but we can’t,” he said. “An addict must make the decision to fix themselves and then can only get there through God and support from others.”
Chad Malone is a board member for Cherished and said he’s excited to see how the ministry will grow and the impact it will have in the community.
One area the group is working on is being a support for local churches where congregations may not be equipped or understand how to handle people suffering from addictions.
“There are a lot of needs in our churches, and we know that they can’t do everything,” Malone said. “So we want to try to take some of that burden from them and try to help in those ways. Education is very important. Information is very important, but it’s applying what you’re learning, and I think that’s where we really stand out.
“We aren’t just giving you a bunch of information. We’re teaching people how to apply it so they can do something in their life,” he said.
For Zabel, Cherished is about helping every woman know their potential and their worth.
“We believe that all women are loved and cherished by God,” she said.
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
What it is: A local nonprofit organization ministering and providing support and resources to women who suffer from addiction and other life-controlling issues.
Founder: Joni Zabel
Where it is: Cherished’s new office is at 708 W. Second St., Seymour
For information or to make a donation: Call Joni Zabel at 812-269-2855 or email [email protected]. You also can visit their website at cherishedministry.com or check them out on Facebook.
Unashamed, 10 a.m. Tuesdays
Concerned Persons, starting at 9 a.m. Dec. 9
Armor of God, day and time to be determined starting in January
Truly Free, 10 a.m. Tuesdays starting in January