Women find hope in new Fort Dodge facility

After years of using drugs, Andrea Wingert found she no longer wanted to live.

“I prayed every night that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning,” she said Wednesday evening. “I would be mad when I woke up in the morning.”

Josi Pahl said using marijuana became part of her daily routine, and added that drugs helped her to escape from the pain in her life.

Both women are now sober and working their way back to productive lives while living at a new Fort Dodge facility called Gateway to Discovery. They explained the impact the facility and its programs have had on them during a Wednesday evening gathering at Cana, 18 S. Third St.

“I’m so on fire about this program,” Pahl told the roughly 20 people in attendance.

“This house means so much to me,” she added. “It’s changed my life.”

Wingert said Gateway to Discovery has given her hot water, lights, food, shelter and warmth, all things she didn’t have as recently as eight months ago.

She called the facility “the best blessing I’ve ever had.”

Joyce Garton-Natte, a member of the facility’s board of directors, said the goal is to help women who are recovering from substance abuse become independent people who will contribute to their communities.

Carmen Clavin, a certified alcohol and drug counselor who is the director of Gateway to Discovery, said that women must make a two-year commitment to the program.

“It’s two years of an environment that provides love, that provides community,” she said.

During those two years, the women will live in a house at 701 S. 17th St. and participate in programs intended to improve their physical, emotional and spiritual health.

And starting as early as next week, they’ll be working in a paper-making business set up by Gateway to Discovery.

Clavin said the business, called a social enterprise by Gateway leaders, will specialize in taking shredded paper and even dryer lint and converting it into handmade paper to be used in cards.

“We will be taking what many people consider garbage and making it into something beautiful,” she said.

It’s a process, she said, that mirrors the journey of recovery that the women are undertaking as they move from addiction to productive lives.

The paper-making operation also gives the women a chance to “build a history of work,” Clavin added.

The first women entered Gateway to Discovery on Oct. 21, 2013. There are now four women, ranging in age from 19 to 47, living in the house.

Clavin said the program is slowly building up, and added that there is a waiting list of women hoping to be admitted.

The current facility could house up to 12 women.

Gateway to Discovery is a nonprofit organization that receives no government money. It is modeled after the Magdalene House in Nashville, Tenn.