BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you met Tara Bevelheimer, you would think she’s just like any other mom, trying to make the best life for her and her 7-year-old son. She’s working, and going back to school to become a radiology assistant.
But just a few years ago, she was a homeless drug addict, and had lost custody of her child.
“I was drug addict, I was addicted to drugs, I was homeless, bouncing around from place to place. I was in jail,” says Bevelheimer.
She says a prayer, helped change all that. “I cried to God in my jail sell. God sent me the program I was in,” says Bevelheimer.
“I have a record, so first fruits offered me employment when other people probably wouldn’t right now,” says Bevelheimer. “It was a next step to employment freedom. I had been without real employment for awhile so I needed to get back in my bearings, and back used to having a schedule and what was expected of me. Communication and different job skills to prepare me for the next phase.”
That’s exactly what First Fruits is about. It’s a Moody based non-profit that was formed just a few years ago to help provide work for women struggling to recover from addiction, homelessness, poverty and abuse.
“One thing that I have learned is that women who are coming out of extremely traumatic situations cannot take on a lot of stress. Things that we view as normal in our everyday life, is really hard for them,” says First Fruits Founder Marsha Drennen. “We have learned that to expect someone to work a 40 hour work week who has come out of a really dark situation is more than likely not realistic and we are just setting them up to fail again.”
First Fruits offers a first step back into the working world, and society.
“They need to build their resume, they need to learn what it means to be employed and be responsible and honor authority, many of the things we take for granted,” says Drennen about the women she hires.
She was inspired to start First Fruits, after serving on the board of a women’s shelter.
“I saw women get semi-stabilized, get a job and then get fired. And then the whole cycle would start again. Then I realized most of these women just can’t function well enough in a work environment to make it. So that’s how we started this. It’s wonderful to see it working,” says Drennen.
The relationship between Drennen and the women she hires is much more than being a boss. She offers guidance and support. Inviting them to her home, and inviting them to connect with other women.
“We have got to help build a community around them because they can’t go back to the people they used to be with. They can’t go back because they will relapse,” says Drennen.
And it’s working.
“It’s a great place to work. Its gentle it’s a good next step. They are patient and they help you decide who you are and what your next steps are,” says Bevelheimer.
First Fruits runs a year-round ebay business and small batch bakery, but this time of the year, their focus is on creating and selling beautiful holiday baskets. The women in the program are given prototypes, and then assemble the baskets, and help sell them.
“We are really proud of what we do. We believe God is honored in excellence. We want you to buy for the purpose, there’s no doubt about that, but we want you to buy for the product to. They are really quality baskets, and we do our best to keep them affordable,” says Drennen. “We don’t want you buying because you feel sorry for us. We want you to buy because you’re really getting a great gift to give somebody and you’re proud to do it.”
If you want to order a holiday, December 18th is deadline. First Fruits offers local delivery, and will ship to anywhere in the country.
They have a goal to sell 400 baskets this year.
They also offer a “Hope for the Homeless” package. It’s a kit with necessitates like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hats, gloves, socks and scarves. For $25, you can order a kit, that First Fruits will distribute to local homeless before Christmas.
“We just want people in need to know that God loves them,” says Drennen.