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‘Our brave residents inspire me’: How this Hope Center leader gained perspective for the hard days

On the hard days – and hard days come in every ministry field – Mary Nolen remembers the courage of the women walking the path toward healing at Hope Center Indy.

“I admire every single resident who walks through our doors because of her bravery,” Nolen, the Hope Center’s associate director, said. “It takes courage to flee a dangerous situation and come to a new place. It takes courage to leave an abusive relationship, and it takes courage to quit an addiction and be sober. It takes wisdom and proactiveness to make a choice to commit 15 months to intentionally rebuild your life.”


For Nolen herself, it took a healthy measure of courage – and of faith -- to join the Hope Center leadership team in 2019. Her brother and the Hope Center’s cofounder, David Nolen, had died that year. And Mary came alongside a team that was hurting and a ministry trying to find its way forward amid heartbreak.


Mary’s experience as a foster parent helped her focus on the long-term mission.


“When I first started as a foster mom in 2016, I heard this quote: ‘In foster care, the highs are really high, and the lows are really low,’“ she said. “I believe this could be true for the ministry at the Hope Center as well. We feel the deep heartache of learning the pain that our residents have carried for a long time, but we also feel excited and inspired when we see women overcome pain.”


Nolen noted that building a unified team of staff and volunteers not only helps the Hope Center fulfill its mission but also models to residents healthy ways to nurture relationships and resolve conflicts.


“For the last decade, I have attended Global Leadership Summits and have often heard the phrases, ‘Everything rises and falls with leadership,’ and ‘When a leader gets better, everyone wins.’ I believe these principles to be true,” Nolen said.


“I see my role as continuing to develop and support every leader within our organization. If I can help develop our residential ministries director, our program director, our intake director, and our case managers in their leadership roles, then I believe their growth will mean growth for every single staff member and resident. If I can help develop and support our marketing director and finance director, then that will mean growth for the Hope Center’s financial stability, which provides security for the residents and other employees. So, shepherding our leaders is important to me.”


Helping to lead a growing ministry, one that each day helps women confront and overcome some of the harshest realities of this world, has helped Nolen gain perspective on the challenges in her own life.


“Sometimes I will feel frustrated with something — maybe I didn’t sleep well the night before or I’m having technical difficulties, and then I hear one of the residents say something about how she is choosing to be thankful and be positive even when she may be separated from her child that she loves, or she is trying to get legal aid for important issues, or she is sad thinking about the other girls that she was friends with before who are still being trafficked,” Nolen said. “These conversations with our brave residents inspire me every day to overcome obstacles because that is what our residents are doing.“

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