By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
Susan Haynes Brogan is living her life “on purpose” and not “on target” as some would say.
This mother of three came back from a 16-year decision to stay home and raise her children to be President of Jacob’s Well Ministry and the executive pastor over Jacob’s Well Recovery Center. The Christ centered recovery center for women is located in Poplarville, and is home to between 30 and 40 women who are battling addictions of every kind.
Upon Susan’s arrival to Jacob’s Well Ministry, in 2006, it has grown to operate five thrift stores located in: Picayune, Purvis and Hattiesburg with two in Poplarville. It has an on-line thrift store and by the end of February will have opened its very first thrift grocery store which will be located in Millard at the old Corner Store location.
The stores which operate by donated items from local business and families help support the Jacob’s Well Recovery Center. Each dollar that is spent in the stores is a “seed that is sown” in these women’s lives. The stores teach the women in recovery every aspect of running a successful business, good work ethics and business skills.
“Our main goal is to provide critical care to the women when they first arrive. The first month is really about survival. I equate what they are going through to a 70 mph head on collision. Many have been used, abused, lied to, spit on, molested, and raped. They have had to use every form of drugs or alcohol to escape all that pain. Our main goal is to just get them to breathe. They all come here being traumatized from what they have experienced in the past and up to the point they enter our program. The first 30 days are ‘fight or flight’ time. Many will leave us because they can’t handle the sobriety process and give up, finding it too hard to deal with their past with a sober mind.”
During the first 90 days, the ladies work in the thrift stores and learn the business world.
“Many of these ladies either have no work skills or have little recent work experience. The work part is only ten percent of their total program but it is vital to them upon graduation. After the first three months, they go into management of the stores and continue to build on the foundation that they began during their first 90 days. We focus on their work ethics and taking pride in what they do. They sign off on each transaction they work for the stores. It is such a boost to their self confidence that they are entrusted with such important matters and they master all aspects of running a business before they graduate.”
Throughout this timeframe, Susan and the staff operate with an open door policy to residents of the center. “I feel that the best time to handle an issue is when it surfaces and you can not always wait for a scheduled appointment to address it. When they are hurting or need guidance, we are there.”
Susan did not grow up in a Christian home or under any particular religious direction. As a matter of fact, the abuse of alcohol was very prevalent in her home. “My family moved 21 times before I was 18. My father was in retail and that went with territory. At the age of 25 she accepted the Lord, and everything changed. At that time my family and I confronted my father at our family table: My mother, two sisters, my brother and I told him how we felt about him drinking. We were all in counseling and left that table convinced we would not maintain a relationship with my father.
“Within six months of that conversation everyone in our family was saved; my brother Asa was the one who led my father to accept the Lord. Within two years of that, my father founded ‘Righteous Oaks Recovery Center’ for men, located in Chunky, Miss. He felt led to help as many men as he could escape that life that he had led for fifty years.”
The program for men was successful and the family began a program for women based on the same principles five years later.
“Even through all of our moves, my family lived in Picayune the longest of all of the places we lived. We weren’t Christians during that time and I winced when I found out that Picayune was the first store location. But it was a golden opportunity to share with people who knew us how the Lord can truly transform you. Our ladies have the same experience when they graduate from the program.
“I say I am purposed to protect greatness. You ask, ‘What does that mean?’ It means that I want to protect them while they are here because they are going back to those towns with the people who knew them as ambassadors for change and hope.”
Brogan says, “To every beautiful woman who has ever crossed over the threshold of Jacob's Well— I believe in you. You are a world changer. You did what many people could not do, which was find the courage to change your character, which in return changed your life. I love you all and you all blow me away.”
Item photo by Jodi Marze
Above: Susan Haynes Brogan (second from left and wearing sweater) lives her life committed to encouraging women who are in the recovery process through her family’s ministry.