By John Bailey
Catawba County United Way
Darlene Sanders has a lot to be thankful for in life.
At the age of 58, she has a job she loves, a comfortable home, a car she owns and more importantly she just got her first driver’s license.
Nearly a decade ago, her life was completely different. She admits chasing the next high was the only thing she cared about when she was younger.
"My intentions weren't focused on anything legal, but today that's what I stay focused on,” Sanders said. “All the things that I'm going to get joy from. I do things today that I never thought I would ever do.”
Sanders is an Exodus Homes program graduate and currently works as the agency’s Women’s Site Manager. Exodus Homes in Hickory is a Catawba County United Way funded program, providing transitional housing for individuals coming out of treatment centers or incarceration.
The agency helps the United Way meet one of its key missions every year, promoting financial stability and independence for individuals.
Sanders credits the programs at Exodus Homes for helping her find a path to a healthier, happier life. On Dec. 16, she'll be eight years clean from drugs.
This gift of support and trust from Exodus Homes helped her rebuild a life with her daughter.
"There was a time when my daughter wouldn't allow me near her house, and I understand that today,” Sanders said. “It was because of my addiction, but today she stands beside me one million percent in everything I do."
Sanders never thought she was worthy of the kind of love she now has from her daughter and friends and supporters at Exodus Homes.
"Today they let me know they love me for who I am,” she said. “They love me for what I've done. They love me for what I'm doing, and they love me for what I'm about to do."
Sanders is happy to share her story of success, leading the orientations for new residents at Exodus Homes. She lets them know if she can do it, they can as well. She likes to remind them, no matter what's in their past, it's what they do in the present with the help of Exodus Homes that will determine their future.
"God continued to show me that I was still somebody regardless of what I’ve done in the past,” Sanders said. “I can't change that, but it doesn't define who I am.”
She does remind everyone during orientation, the journey is hard.
“Every day isn't going to be a good day, but it's better than being out on the street doing illegal things and putting that poison in your bodies," she said.
Sanders has a work phone and personal phone and tells everyone in orientation she doesn't care what time of day or what time of night it is when they need help.
"If they're heart gets heavy, if that demon gets on their shoulder telling them to leave and go get high, they can pick up that phone and call me."
She's been thankful to be able to take those calls and remind residents they have people they can turn to now that they're with Exodus Homes.
In 2020, the agency was able to help change the course of 146 lives.
For more information about Exodus Homes call 828-324-4870.