The Ark Refuge was founded 30 years ago by director, Yvonne Lopez’s late husband, Carlos Lopez. The ministry was started as a mission to implement a Christian based healing program through housing, outreach, prevention, and empowerment (H.O.P.E.). It is dedicated to the restoration of men who have been broken through hard circumstances in their lives. The ministry relies on volunteers, contributions, and prayers from the community. Without the generous help of local churches, businesses, and individuals in the community, this ministry would not exist.
Yvonne Lopez said her late husband Carlos, who passed away 5 years ago this January, prepared her to take over the ministry. She was already working in a similar ministry when they met. “My husband loved working with these men to turn their lives around, to become productive citizens”; she stated. The Ark Refuge currently houses and 63 men.
Through this ministry, men who have experienced tough struggles such as incarcerations, substance abuse, and homelessness have the opportunity to heal and live up to their Christ given potential. Carlos believed if we can help men gain a firm foundation with their creator; to be leaders in their homes, good fathers and husbands, then the whole community will be affected in a positive way. With that in mind; Yvonne Lopez presses on.
“I promised my husband and God that I would keep it going.” “It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been rewarding”, she said. “Every day I get to see Him work in people’s lives, and some days I cannot believe the things that God allows to manifest”. “A lot of times, we go from day to day, and we don’t pay attention to what God is doing around us, but you can’t help but see God present and operating everyday in this ministry!”
“We do so much with so little”, says Yvonne Lopez. “We are like the Little Engine That Could”. “We just keep spreading out what we have, and it works!” “Not because of me, but because of God”, she said.
The Ark Refuge is not a walk-in shelter. It is a nondiscriminatory, Christian faith based ministry, offering a 6 to 12 month structured re-entry program through the Department of Community Supervision. The Ark provides THOR approved transitional housing for offender reentry. It is a safe, secure environment where residents receive education, mentoring, narcotics awareness classes, and rehabilitation. As part of the structured program, residents participate in Bible study, church services, and financial planning classes. Interviews are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the center located at, 204 E Depot Street LaGrange.
Residents receive assistance in finding a job, as well as, work clothes and boots or shoes. They receive guidance in obtaining their own housing, a bank account, a driver’s license, and a means of transportation. Residents are also encouraged to save money and have a 3 month savings before leaving the program.
If a resident isn’t ready after a year, they are not pushed out the door. This is not a repeat program; however, they are allowed to continue. The men are also encouraged to build bonds with their children while living at the refuge. Boys are allowed to spend the weekend with their dad.
Diplomas are given after 6 months and a certificate is awarded upon 1 year completion of the program. Yvonne Lopez said the numbers of graduates have increased dramatically over the past 3 years.
Mentors and role models are always needed. A few big projects are currently ongoing at the Ark Refuge. Installation of more bathrooms with large showers, sinks and toilets are being added. Carpeting is being removed and replaced with vinyl flooring throughout the building common areas. Also, a commercial hood for the kitchen is needed. Estimated cost will be $8,000 for the hood and installation.
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Tammy Greathouse Staff Writer