ATLANTA, GA, March 15, 2014 – Wellspring Living is an organization that offers services to victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. Their mission is “to confront the issue of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation through awareness, training, and treatment programs for women and girls.” In the following interview, Founder and CEO Mary Frances Bowley takes us inside the walls of Wellspring Living in order to educate the public about their services.
Holly Smith: Mary, where are your headquarters, and where are your efforts based?
Mary Frances Bowley: Our vision is to serve locally and influence globally. Locally, we are committed to the rescue, restoration, and renewal of survivors. Globally, we hope to come alongside other organizations and give them a replicable model so they can do the same in their communities.
Holly Smith: Can you tell us about the restoration programs available at Wellspring Living?
Mary Frances Bowley: Wellspring Living offers three types of comprehensive healing programs: Wellspring for Girls, Wellspring for Women, and the Transitions Program. All of our programs focus on the holistic restoration of sexual abuse and trafficking victims.
Wellspring for Girls is offered to girls between the ages of 12 and 17 who have been sexually exploited. Girls are offered counseling, group therapy, education, life skills, vocational training, family reunification, and spiritual care. The program aims to help exploitation survivors heal and move toward a positive and healthy lifestyle. The program collaborates with a licensed children’s home, a non-traditional school, and community partners.
Wellspring for Women is a recovery home designed to help restore women (ages 18-38) who have survived childhood sexual abuse and are currently living destructive lifestyles. Each survivor is provided with an individual recovery plan that includes mentoring, counseling, coaching, life education skills, family therapy, and spiritual encouragement.
The Transitions Program includes the Empowered Living Program and the Independent Living Program. The Empowered Living Program provides residential, therapeutic, and educational/career guidance services for young women (ages 17-22) who have been identified as victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Girls in the Empowered Living Program are encouraged to seek out support in the local community; secure healthy jobs; obtain their GEDs, if needed; and/or start their college or technical school education. Both programs exist to foster holistic change in women to become self-sustained and empowered through Christ-centered community education and therapy from Wellspring Living.
Holly Smith: Regarding housing, how many individuals are you able to accommodate? And, are you able to house mothers with children?
Mary Frances Bowley: Currently, Wellspring for Girls is able to serve 15 girls, our Empowered Living Program is able to serve 11, and Wellspring for Women is able to serve 20. We are unable to house women with children at this time.
Holly Smith: How does faith play a role in your organization?
Mary Frances Bowley: It is our desire that others will see God’s love through us and desire to explore a relationship with Him for themselves. However, if this is not their choice, it is our practice to accept and love them.
Holly Smith: What sets Wellspring Living apart from other programs?
Mary Frances Bowley: Wellspring Living is currently one of two homes in Georgia for child victims of domestic trafficking with whom the state of Georgia actively collaborates. Wellspring Living is unique in that each program offered takes a comprehensive approach — healing the mind, body and spirit — through education, individual and group therapy as well as life skills classes. Wellspring Living strives for long-term sustainability for each girl’s life by looking deep into the root of the issue. The residential programs are key to the healing and successful futures of the many survivors the organization serves.
Holly Smith: What is the best way for victims and/or law enforcement/social services to reach Wellspring Living?
Mary Frances Bowley: For ages 12-17, help includes a safe environment for survivors of sex trafficking. Call 404-602-0068 to reach Georgia Cares. For ages 17-22, help includes career and education support for young women; call 678-699-4880.
For women ages 18 and over, help includes guidance for life transformation; call 404-427-3100. The Redeemed Assessment Center offers a safe environment for women in immediate need; call 678-699-4880. The Lynn Sweet Counseling Center offers a comfortable counseling environment for families and individuals; call 770-866-2395.
Holly Smith: Tell us about the Wellspring Treasures stores.
Mary Frances Bowley: Wellspring Living operates four upscale retail consignment shops, called Wellspring Treasures, around Atlanta. One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales at Wellspring Treasures stores benefit the restoration of women and girls who have been sexually abused or trafficked. The first Wellspring Treasures location opened in Peachtree City, GA in 2001. In its first day alone, the store made more than $3,000 – covering one month’s operational fees for the organization’s residential programs at that time. Each store relies solely on the contributions of others and specializes in new and gently used furniture, home décor, clothing, and housewares. More than 150 volunteers per week are involved in operating the four locations around Atlanta.
Holly Smith: Thanks so much for your time, Mary. Is there anything else you would like to mention about your organization?
Mary Frances Bowley: Wellspring Living is committed to serve survivors and empower others who want to be a part of the solution. We believe ever girl should be able to reach her potential, in spite of her circumstances. We believe that everyone can be a part of her story of success. For more information on Wellspring Living and how you can contribute to the cause, please visit www.WellspringLiving.org. You can also follow our activity on Facebook and Twitter!
Written by Holly Austin Smith, author of Walking Prey, which is an academic nonfiction book about child sex trafficking in the United States.