Glen Ewen resident Shelley Boyes wants to help young women in southeast Saskatchewan who are battling what she calls "life-controlling issues," and she believes she has found the means to do it.
Boyes is the founder of Choose Life Ministries, a Christian organization that strives to assist teenage girls and young adult women who are battling drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, depression, self-harm actions such as cutting, and other issues.
Choose Life was established in January of this year as a non-profit organization. It is managed by a board of directors, and has the support of a local church.
The necessary funds have to be in place before Choose Life can start treating young women. Boyes envisions that Choose Life will have offer a six-month program in a residential setting.
About 30 acres of land in the far southeast corner of the province – not far from Saskatchewan's border with Manitoba and North Dakota – have been donated to Choose Life.
"It's on a very nice rural setting, on an acreage, with a creek running through the property," said Boyes. "It's a very nice place for the girls to be."
But they still need a building. Plans have been drawn up for the home. Boyes said they have a few thousand dollars now; she expects they will need about $200,000 before construction can begin.
"One of the principles of the ministry is that we would never go into debt, or borrow money, so the funds will have to be in place as the project goes along," said Boyes.
The projected cost of the project is $1.2 million.
Choose Life is modeled after Mercy Ministries, which Boyes said is a very successful program in the U.S. that has been operating for over 30 years.
"They have an extremely high success rate with the girls who have completed the program," said Boyes. "Over 90 per cent of the girls go on to live very successful and productive lives."
The young women who are part of Choose Life's care will have a structured daily schedule that is designed to meet their spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual needs.
Weekdays will offer a packed schedule from 7 a.m. until 10:30 p.m. Residents would have to complete jobs around the building, and attend a Bible study and worship time. The afternoon would include individual counselling with a qualified counselor, as well as group counselling.
Fitness and education would also be part of the daily routine, Boyes said.
"Some of the girls probably will not have finished high school, so they'll have the opportunity to do a GED (general education development) diploma," said Boyes. "Some of the girls who have finished high school will have the opportunity to learn other skills and other things at that time."
More house duties will have to be completed in the late afternoon and evening.
Healthy meals will, of course, be part of Choose Life.
"The girls will be learning a whole standard of life skills in this, because they'll be involved in the cooking of the meals under the guidance of a nutritionist," said Boyes. "They will be involved in everything that they would normally be involved with in a regular home."
The morning weekend schedules will also ensure the young women are busy. Residents will be able to attend church on Sunday morning. There will be an opportunity for free time on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Parents, churches and other agencies could refer a child to Choose Life. A fairly extensive application process will be required for any prospective residents.
People have been very supportive for Choose Life and its programs, Boyes said.
"I think people recognize that the need is very great for this type of program, and the fact that it could actually happen in southeast Saskatchewan, rather than forcing people to travel to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton or Winnipeg for this kind of help, has resulted in really positive feedback from people," said Boyes.
Boyes said she decided to start Choose Life Ministries because of experiences in her own family. One of her daughters passed away six years ago in a motor vehicle accident in which alcohol was a factor. Two other daughters have struggled with substance abuse since then.
She hopes that some good can come from the challenges her family has experienced.
One fundraiser is already planned: a red carpet banquet will take place at Living Hope Community Church in Estevan on Friday, September 21. Boyes said it will be an "elegant evening" that will feature a formal dinner, followed by entertainment, courtesy of comedian Matt Jernigan. Boyes said the comedian will be family-friendly.
The event will conclude with a short presentation on the ministry, and an auction. Paintings and other forms of artwork, along with a quilt, Saskatchewan Roughrider tickets and other items, are expected to be included in the auction.
"It should be a lot of fun, and it will be an exciting time," said Boyes.
Tickets went on sale recently, and Boyes expects that she will have a good idea of attendance in the next couple of weeks. She said the event can accommodate up to 175 or 180 people.
Tickets are $100 per plate and can be purchased by calling Boyes at 925-4823 or Living Hope Community Church at 634-8133.