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Haddie’s to host fundraising event

LANETT — The executive director and house parent for Haddie’s were the guest speakers at Thursday’s noon hour meeting of the West Point Rotary Club.

Elizabeth Hancock, the director, and Anita Smith, house parent, talked about the home for girls just across the Chambers County line in Opelika. Haddie’s was founded six years ago on property owned by Earlon McWhorter. It’s in a large, barn-shaped house plenty large enough for ten girls in the 10-18 age group to live together in a Christ-centered environment of trust and hope where they can have an opportunity to see God fulfill his purpose for their lives.

From 3 to 6 p.m. CST on Saturday, February 8th, Haddie’s will be hosting its inaugural fundraising event. Tickets are $25 at the door, and attendees can meet the team behind the magic at Haddie’s, enjoy a dessert-tasting experience, a silent auction and to tour the home. It’s billed as Hearts for Haddie’s, and everyone present will know that their donations will be going to a good cause.

Haddie’s operates solely on donations of all kinds including monetary gifts, physical gifts, gifts of time, and most of all, prayers.

Haddie’s gets its name from the Book of Esther in the old testament. Esther is a Persian name meaning “star.” Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, or Haddie for short. The organization’s original executive director, T.R. Amason, loved Esther’s story of rising from bondage to be the queen of Persia, a position that allowed her to plead for the salvation of her people. It was Amason’s dream to build a safe home for children in need.

“It’s so beautiful out there,” Hancock said. “All of you are welcome to come out Saturday to join us and meet our board of directors. Haddie’s is in the Opelika city limits, and the girls attend Opelika city schools. It’s nice to be in the city but in a place that’s quiet and peaceful.”

At present, Haddie’s is home for ten girls of middle school age. “They participate in extracurricular activities such as athletics, band and chorus. At times, they go to all-day competitions. “We have lots of room at Haddie’s,” Smith said. The girls love riding their bikes, bouncing on the trampoline or going for a swim in our pool. We have indoor swings on the first floor of our barn. It gives the girls something to do on bad weather days.We encourage them to mingle together and to bond like sisters. I teach them how to cook, to do laundry and get them to keep their rooms straight. We get them up every day for a 5:30 a.m. devotional.”

“Anita is doing a fantastic job with that,” Hancock said. “We are a faith-based home, but we don’t force beliefs on anyone. We feel we can lead them to what’s right for them. Some of our girls came from low-income backgrounds and are not used to living in a big house. Some of them stay a few weeks, and some of them stay for several years. They can stay until they are 21 if they are in college.”

Some of the older girls have jobs. “We are blessed to have some businesses in the Opelika-Auburn area who will work around their schedule to employ them.”

The girls come from different circumstances. “We have accepted some girls who have behavioral issues,” Smith said. “Some have come from troubled backgrounds. In most cases, they didn’t get along with their family. Some of our girls came from foster care.”

Haddie’s  girls aren’t allowed to have cell phones, but Smith does allow them to use her phone if they need to call home for some reason. Having boyfriends is a touchy subject. The older girls are allowed to have them, provided the boy comes out to talk to Smith and Hancock and makes a favorable impression. “I ask lots of questions,” Smith said. “We have a big yard. They are welcome to come out and help us clean it up.”

The girls are allowed to use laptops to do homework, but Smith is careful they don’t access social media. “We get some pushback on that but not from parents,” Smith said. “We encourage them to read books and to go to the library.”

Hancock said Haddie’s has a great working relationship with the Alabama Sheriff’s Girls Ranch in Tallapoosa County. “They have helped us a lot over the years,” she said. “They gave us good advice on what worked and what did not. There have been times when we were filled up and sent a girl to them and times when they were filled up and they sent one to us.”

Hancock added that Hearts for Haddie’s was scheduled for mid afternoon so visitors could come there first and then go to the Sheriff’s Ranch fundraiser, Grillin’ for Girls, to be held Saturday evening at the ALFA building in LaFayette.

Donors make a big difference for Haddie’s. A recent donation allowed them to purchase a 15-passenger van. Donations have allowed the girls to attend Auburn University football games, to go to the Lee County Fair, to movies and to receive clothing from the Big House Foundation, Hancock said.

“Residents of National Village have helped us with lawn care and house care, meals and other support for our girls,” Hancock said. “Over the summer we were blessed with volunteers from the Auburn United Methodist Church and the Church of the Highlands who came out to Haddie’s and volunteered their time.”

Hancock said that Haddie’s is committed to remaining debt-free. “With all the generous support we have received from the community we have been able to continue this commitment,” she said. “If you would like to support us in our mission to serve girls in crisis, please visit our website at www.haddies.org to see our list of current needs.”

Haddie’s is located at 1451 Andrews Road, just down the road from the Walmart Distribution Center and Mando.