Hope Dealers of Arkansas opened its doors to women in need nearly one year ago. Despite the toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken on the facility’s funding, the recovery center’s leaders have refused to turn away those battling addiction as long as bed space has allowed.

Helping women in need overcome addiction is a rewarding process that co-founder Tonya Hartwick Burt said she is proud to be a part of.

Hartwick Burt co-founded the recovery program in December 2019 alongside her husband, Dusty Burt, who serves as the facility’s chaplain.

Hope Dealers is a nonprofit, faith-based rehabilitation center focused on helping women beat addiction during a 15-month program and is housed in the heart of Guy.

Opening the facility took “a huge step of faith,” Hartwick Burt said.

“Stepping out to do what seems impossible can be scary – like trying to walk on water – but God will help you keep walking because everything is possible for Him,” she said. “During the past year, I have watched women that have struggled with addiction their whole lives come here seeking a new life in Christ. Ladies would come through the doors full of guilt, shame and regret [and] feeling hopeless and ready to give up on life.

“[These women were] living in bondage of fear because of the labels that have been put on them from poor choices in their lives.”

Over time, Hartwick Burt said she has witnessed miraculous transformations in the women Hope Dealers serves and said she refuses to let the pandemic tear apart the services the program offers.

The facility currently houses eight women – six Phase I participants and two Phase II participants. One woman currently in outpatient treatment also receives services through Hope Dealers.

The pandemic has not interfered with the facility’s ability to provide treatment and educational courses from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, nor has it stepped in the way of allowing the women to volunteer Tuesdays at the Soul Food Café Mission in Conway. However, the pandemic has caused the rehabilitation center to lose a great deal of funding, forcing the center to cutoff all payroll expenditures.

Hartwick Burt said she is thankful for the leadership army behind Hope Dealers – a group that did not back down when the pandemic hit and continues holding on strong today.

“I was so scared when COVID hit because our finances were totally shattered by not being able to speak at churches and I was afraid I would lose everyone. My priority was to keep the doors open at Hope Dealers, even if it meant losing everything else – the lives of the ladies here was my focus,” Hartwick Burt told the Log Cabin Democrat. “When I told staff that I was going to have to stop payroll because we could not possibly afford payroll and still cannot, I expected everyone to quit. But God! His army he blessed me with was ready to fight with me to keep the doors open. I could never have done this without their help, time and encouragement.”

But for Nikki Driscoll, the facility’s marketing director, there’s more to being a part of the Hope Dealers team than bringing home a paycheck. It’s about helping women regain their strength and earn their lives back, she said.

“Hope Dealers isn’t a job. It’s a calling from God,” she said. “I don’t do this for money. I want to help save lives. I know what it’s like to be homeless and a junkie.”

Driscoll said she feels it is her responsibility to share her story of hopelessness and abandonment with others to help them better understand their own battles.

“If my story helps save the life of just one woman, if it brings just one mom back to her kids, then it makes it all worth it,” she said.

The facility’s marketing director joined the Hope Dealers team in January.

As a recovering addict, Driscoll said she saw Hope Dealers as a “place of refuge.”

Watching the women in recovery grow through the program makes it all worth it, she said.

“God uses this ministry to change the lives and hearts of the women in our program,” Driscoll said. “My favorite part of this process for the ladies is getting to witness their self esteem and self worth grow. Most of them are so broken when they get to Hope Dealers, but day by day we watch God change that. Their smiles return. They regain their confidence. It’s not an easy process, but they work hard to take their lives back.”

Hope Dealers Administrative Assistant Lacey Blair Wilson said she has watched women “who were absolutely hopeless” transform “into Godly women who want nothing more than to continue to live life sober and be God’s army here on Earth.”

More than 80 percent of the recovery center’s funding was provided through love offerings at weekly church services prior to COVID shut downs.

Since the COVID pandemic hit Arkansas, the facility has relied strictly on other donations.

“Our ladies would go and tell testimonials and our director would tell about our program,” Driscoll said. “Since COVID, we are unable to do that. We rely on the generous donations of a few supporters, but there are still so many people who don’t even Despite the struggles the pandemic has caused, the leadership team behind Hope Dealers – Hartwick Burt, Burt, Blair Wilson, Briscoll, Housing Coordinator Mandi Tanner and Board President Shelly Brown – continuously works to help women in recovery overcome their addictions and also educate the community about the obstacles those in recovery face.

Keeping the program up and running is more important now than ever, Blair Wilson said.

“I believe that the mission we here at Hope Dealers have is especially important during this pandemic because people are losing their jobs and people are really struggling, even more than before,” she said. “Recovering addicts are falling back into addiction and the ones that are actively in addiction are getting worse because the are depressed, bored and alone. They couldn’t stay plugged in when things were shut down and so they fall right back into old patterns so they don’t have to feel.”

The recovery center is looking toward the community for financial support as well as mentors for the women it serves.

The leadership team, along with Tisha Lamb, a local resident and regular Hope Dealers mentor, works together as an army for the women in recovery, Blair Wilson said.

“It’s an amazing experience being able to fight this battle with them, but we can’t do it alone,” she said. “No battle has ever been fought with seven people. We desperately need people to step up and join our army – God’s army. We need mentors; we need prayers; we need support from our community; we need financial support. These are things we need to succeed.”

Sarah Chilldres, a Phase II participant and the first woman to graduate from Phase I at Hope Dealers, said the program has completely transformed her life.

The Phase II participant said she has found hope through recovery at Hope Dealers.

“I though that there was no hope for my life and wanted to end my life before coming to Hope Dealers,” she told the Log Cabin. “I was broken and shattered – lost everything I ever had due to addiction, including my soul. But God, through Hope Dealers, has given me hope and I know that I am redeemed, forgiven and free from my past.”

While at the recovery center, Chilldres also received dental work that restored the confidence she lost in herself long ago.

“This has given me a new confidence that I lost many years ago in my addiction,” she said. “God has restored my family back to me and continues daily answering prayers and opening doors that I never thought would be possible. I am thankful for Hope Dealers because I would probable not be alive today [without them].”

Nichole Ellis, who is also a Phase II participant, said Hope Dealers has given her a fresh start.

“It has been an introduction to our true and living God. A journey into the unknown of what it looked like to have a relationship with our creator and redeemer. A foundation built and established in my life,” she said.

Since she walked through the doors at Hope Dealers, Ellis said she has learned to control her anger and rage.

The facility has also helped when Ellis felt bitter, resentful, anxious or depressed, she said.

“I no longer feel the need to isolate and distance myself from the world and I know that I will always have a family right here at Hope Dealers that will love me no matter what,” Ellis said. “I was a broken mess when I got here. Now I am nine months free from addiction and anger.”

Hartwick Burt said she could never forget the impact Hope Dealers has already made in multiple women’s lives and is thankful the facility was able to bring in women in the midst of a global pandemic.

One of the women at the facility will move into Phase II in less than one month.

Hartwick Burt said this participant called several rehabilitation centers as the pandemic began looking for help, but that the other facilities could not take this woman in because of the health crisis.

“We never closed our doors of accepting ladies that wanted help,” Hartwick Burt said. “When she called, she was crying because she knew she was one decision away from death. She was broken, addicted, depressed and had no hope. Today, she is the light in the darkness and worships Jesus in such an amazing way. She is full of joy, love, peace and contentment.”

The Conway Regional Health System has donated a building for the rehabilitation to use that would create 18 open beds at Hope Dealers. The facility is currently working to raise funding to have the building moved onto its property in Guy.

To send in a donation, visit www.newhopedealers.com or text GIVE to 501-509-8585. Donations can also be sent to Hope Dealers at 437 Highway 25 North; Greenbrier, AR 72058.

Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at mhicks@thecabin.net.

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