KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Remarkable Woman finalist Rebekah Fetzer is a familiar face as a pastor at Cokesbury United Methodist Church, but her ministry stretches far beyond the church walls.
What she’s doing for women and children caught in the web of addiction, through a place she founded called Susannah’s House, is saving lives.
“I knew you couldn’t help the babies without helping the mothers,” Rebekah said.
While little ones get to learn and play downstairs, moms are upstairs learning, too.
“The classes are on everything from parenting to budgeting to relationships to knowing how to navigate the world,” Rebekah pointed out.
Mother of two with one on the way, Amy Elkins told us, “never been six months sober on my own until I came to Susannah’s House. They pretty much saved my life and my children.”
Susannah’s House is a faith-based non-profit outpatient facility on Dameron Avenue in Knoxville. It provides long-term treatment and support for mothers and mothers-to-be and their children at no cost.
“We as people are going to surround you with that love of God and help you get through whatever it is you’re going through and help you do this on a permanent basis, not a 30-day program where you’re going to be done and get a certificate and that’s it. No, we’re going to be with you for always,” Rebekah said.
As comfort food is prepared by loving hands for lunch, Rebekah shares how Susannah’s House came to be.
“That seed was planted by another remarkable woman who was adopting a baby in our community, and she called and said the baby’s here, but we really don’t want anybody to come. The baby’s in the NICU. I went down to Children’s Hospital and saw this little baby and found out that this baby with withdrawing from opioids. The baby was shaking and trembling and crying and had all kinds of issues and I was just heartbroken about that,” Rebekah recalled. “I just basically left the hospital weeping and crying over this situation. I didn’t realize there were so many babies this was happening to, and this was eight years ago.”
She saw the suffering of one baby and did something to change the course of so many other lives. Their challenges are something Rebekah can understand.
“I had a period in my life where I had children struggling with addiction. I’ve had at one point a spouse who was struggling with addiction, ended up having to get out of that relationship as a result, so I have been where a lot of these moms have been,” she said, adding, “my secret, I guess, is not really a secret. It’s the place God has in my life. My own life. Things that I’ve been through, and that God has brought me through allows me to say if I made it, you could make it.”
Tori Bryan has a 9-month-old daughter and is currently working as a daycare teacher at Susannah’s House.
“I was dropped off straight from the police department to the front door. I know I needed help. I had been in active addiction six years, and I had a little one on the way and I just didn’t know where to find the love for myself. I had lost that. My purpose, my reason. They loved me until I could love myself again,” Tori said.
Amy Elkins agreed, saying of Rebekah: “She’s awesome, she’s awesome. She saved my life. Thank you.”
Susannah’s House has a one-million-dollar operating budget annually. They get some state funding but largely depend on donations. For information on how to donate, and to learn about its expansion plans to build permanent housing next door to the current site of Susannah’s House, visit www.susannahshouse.org.
Remarkable Women airs on WATE 6 in the 5 p.m. news each Tuesday in the month of March. Stories can be found online at WATE.com after they air.