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Southlake Style

Planting the Seed

Nov 12, 2014 03:10PM ● By Dia

The rendering for The Gatehouse Community is displayed proudly at projectHandUp headquarters —a quaint house on property known as The Stonehouse. With creaky hardwood floors and a few small offices, this is where Founder and Board President Lisa Rose, a community advocate for women, has turned her passion for women’s ministry into a reality. From events such as First Fridays to the formation of the nonprofit projectHandUp, Lisa’s path to The Gatehouse, a refuge for women in crisis, has been a leap of faith every step of the way.

For the past 20 years, women’s ministry has been Lisa’s passion —even prior to when she decided to leave the world of corporate marketing. Before plans for The Gatehouse were even a twinkle in her eye, Lisa was planting seeds in the community. “For about a year [in 2007] I had it on my heart to take women’s ministry to the community,” Lisa said. “I didn’t know what that meant, but felt called to have a speaker at Harkins Theater in Southlake once per month.”

She and her team of 12 other ladies who shared her passion for women’s ministry organized a free event for women in the community to gather and hear a message of hope unique to their gender. These gatherings became known as First Fridays, taking place on the first Friday of each month. Motivational speakers, who are women from all walks of life, give practical and spiritual advice, with topics ranging in scope from marriage and parenting to depression and forgiveness. It is “Real Women. Real Talk. Real Life.” 

The monthly event is still going strong seven years later. The 2014-2015 season started out with more than 500 women attending the kickoff event in September which featured speaker Valorie Burton. On Nov. 7, stay at home mom of five Kay Wyma will address “Taming Entitlement in Kids and in Ourselves.”

 But when these speaking engagements began, they were only part of a much larger picture that was yet to be seen. “We knew that First Fridays were not the end,” Lisa said, “but we didn’t know what that meant. They were about feeding people spiritually and emotionally. But not physically — that was the piece that was missing. We knew we should be doing more.”

After years of success, the First Friday experience transformed into the nonprofit projectHandUp. This organization would give Lisa more avenues to follow in her mission to help women. “Each person’s path in life is different, each journey unique,” Lisa said. “We can all be thrown off by life’s challenges and become sidetracked. But sometimes the challenges are simply too devastating to navigate alone, and we need a hand up.”

Although The Gatehouse evolved from projectHandUp, Lisa is quick to point out that it was not her vision alone. A mutual friend put Lisa and now Gatehouse Co- Founder and Executive Director Deborah Lyons in touch, and come to find out, Deborah had similar visions of a supportive community for area women in crisis.

Prior to working with Lisa, Deborah had designed and managed a transitional housing program in Texas for homeless women and children for more than 10 years. She had left this position and was making plans for her version of The Gatehouse. “But on a much smaller scale,” Deborah said. “[The Gatehouse] is my original plan, only bigger!”

As Lisa tells the story, both she and Deborah were slow to connect. However, Deborah made the first move and they met for dinner in 2011. Lisa, as she tells it, decided to back Deborah’s proposal “without hesitation.” Lisa invited Deborah to join projectHandUp, and this would start their journey toward what would be The Gatehouse. Neither women knew how this would come to be, but together they wanted to make it a reality.

Originally, the plan was to purchase seven acres along 360 in Grapevine, but that’s not the way it actually happened. Right before closing, Lisa got the feeling they needed more land, especially to fit all of the facilities the master plan included. Land was needed for counseling centers, a general store, playgrounds, a childcare center, a chapel and more. The size and scope of Lisa and Deborah’s plans needed room —room that the original seven acres could not support. They stumbled along a much larger tract of acreage, also along 360, that was a staggering 61 acres. This was more than enough to house the 96 women and 135 children expected to fill the four apartment complexes of The Gatehouse and then some.

Lisa explained The Gatehouse offers women ample time to carry out their hope and desire to 

 change their circumstances. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Too many times women in crisis from this, underemployment, a devastating divorce, incarceration or poverty, have short-term shelters to turn to in these situations. Lisa and Deborah’s plan includes not only a specialized program for each woman, but allows for an extended stay of up to two years or longer depending on each woman’s specific circumstances.

The Gatehouse is not government funded “transitional” housing is that government facilities have restrictions on length of stays. What’s unique about the Gatehouse Community is that they provide long-term solutions. It offers safe housing, childcare and reliable transportation. “You have to meet strictions on length of stays. What’s unique about the Gatehouse Community is that they provide long-term solutions. It offers safe housing, childcare and reliable transportation. “You have to meet [women] where they are,” Deborah said. “If they are hungry they won’t care about anything else. We’ve knocked down that barrier that prevents women from listening by providing their basic needs.”

In addition to fulfilling basic needs, practical resources that include classes and counseling are also part of their stay. The Gatehouse uses a faith based program, which is an additional reason they are not government funded. Women are expected to follow an individualized program for permanent change, whether that is securing and holding down a job, or going back to school. “It involves hard work and a willingness to make the necessary changes in your life,” Deborah said. “Their only job is to walk that path, doing their program and setting their own goals. But we are here to help and know this will be a great resource for these women.”

But no matter how noble, this project does come at a cost. However, each part of the plan Lisa and Deborah have had for The Gatehouse was and is immediately followed by a donor or volunteer asking how they can help. “You show up and work the plan and see who God brings,” Lisa said. “When you are in the right place and take the next step and don’t get in a hurry, God brings people at just the right time.”