Lasting hope: How a meeting 5 years ago led to a new mission and changed lives today
In 2016, a mutual friend introduced Margo Ward to Hubert Nolen, who was preparing to launch Hope Center Indy. It was a connection that ultimately would change an untold number of lives and lead to the creation of a new ministry.
“Everyone who walks into the Hope Center knows they have been called to make a difference,” Ward said. “Every door seemed to open as we grew, and the daily miracle updates were contagious, seeing how lives were being changed -- from the residents, staff and volunteers, to every person who had a tour and saw the vision of Jesus in the midst of all the brokenness.”
Ward, a native of South Africa with a master’s degree in clinical psychology, now serves on the Hope Center’s Board of Directors. In that leadership role, she has seen firsthand how the ministry helps women escape and recover from the commercial sex trade.
“The public needs to know that HCI changes lives – period,” Ward said. “There is only one way to heal and that is in a long- term care program that shows unconditional love, teaches respect, selfcare, and understanding within the boundaries of Christ’s love for us. HCI offers the program free to residents and is supported by donors and volunteers who genuinely care for the cause. Every resident who walks into the program is the most important gift we can receive, and the staff will move mountains to heal those broken lives and show them the love and hope they deserve.”
In addition to her service with the Hope Center, Ward volunteers with the chaplaincy ministry at the Marion County Jail. The program provides inmates with worship services, Bibles and hygiene products. It was there that Ward began to witness the devastating consequences of the sex trade.
“The obvious signs of human trafficking broke my heart,” she said. “I started workshops and talks at our church to raise awareness about trafficking. The public needs to know that the ones doing the harm to these ladies (by paying for sex) are all around us. They’re our friends and neighbors. Awareness is the key.”
It wasn’t the first – or last – time that Ward saw a need and answered the call to address it.
“I saw an empty sewing room on the third floor of the Hope Center,” she said. “The room had been very neglected before HCI moved into the building, and I realized it had to have a purpose if it was in that building. I got permission to start a sewing program -- knowing there was no money. I placed a request on Nextdoor to assist in getting the program up and running. Within two weeks, we had 30 sewing machines, a lot of fabric, and a sewing instructor who breathed life into what is now a thriving Sew Hopeful ministry. It is currently a part of the Art Therapy program at HCI and is very successful, and it did not cost us a penny to launch.”
The work didn’t stop there.
“My friend Kristi Mitchell asked if our ladies could sew a children’s product that she was having manufactured in China,” Ward said. “Kristi is a professor of Entrepreneurial Studies at Butler University’s Lacy School of Business. She also asked if she could teach a group of ladies in the final phase of the HCI program, and it was a huge success. When residents leave the Hope Center, Grace House or any recovery home, including jail, prisons and homeless shelters, they go back to an environment that allowed their brokenness to thrive. We realized that there needs to be an employment and education portion for those who are ready to start a new chapter in their lives.”
That realization gave rise to the Launch Hope Foundation, which Ward and Mitchell started in 2019. Launch Hope helps women (and now men) gain the skills and experience they need to start a career or to launch and grow their own businesses. One business that Launch Hope helped to plant, for example, is Kiki’s Collections, which sells apparel for babies and pets.
Ward said her message for prospective donors and volunteers at the Hope Center is centered on sustained hope and healing.
“This is a mission that will change your perspective in so many ways,” she said. “It is more than a recovery center for trafficking victims and addiction recovery. It is hope for all who serve, support and volunteer. The vision from the start was to heal all who have been affected by human trafficking. HCI’s effect on the community is astounding. New businesses have grown from the need, community partners have been enriched, and the story of brokenness is now one of hope and healing. This is a contagious place of hope for all who become involved.”