November 5, 2010

A place of amazing tranformations: Seeds of Hope helps women to overcome their addictions and reclaim their lives

Dominican Sister Maria Fidelis Gray, left, the principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Carmel, Ind., and Anne Dumas, the principal of St. Augustine School in Renssselaer, Ind., both in the Lafayette Diocese, gear up for a breakout session for administrators on Oct. 29. (Photo by Mary Banta)

Dominican Sister Maria Fidelis Gray, left, the principal of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School in Carmel, Ind., and Anne Dumas, the principal of St. Augustine School in Renssselaer, Ind., both in the Lafayette Diocese, gear up for a breakout session for administrators on Oct. 29. (Photo by Mary Banta)

By John Shaughnessy

It’s a story of a woman’s struggle for redemption.

It’s also a story of faith, including how a priest and a parish have offered hope to women who desperately want a fresh start in life.

As Marvetta Grimes-Cooperwood shares the story, she fights back tears while she sits inside the Seeds of Hope residence center on the grounds of St. Joseph Parish in Indianapolis, a center for women who are trying to reclaim their lives after their addictions to alcohol and drugs.

As the executive director of Seeds of Hope since 2005, Grimes-Cooperwood could tell the stories of many of those women. But the story of addiction, recovery and faith that she shares on this crisp, sunny autumn morning is her own.

“I started using when I was 12 years old, drinking and smoking marijuana,” she says. “By the time I was 18, it had escalated to crack cocaine.”

The years that followed included living on the streets, being involved in an abusive relationship and abandoning everyone who loved her for more booze and drugs.

By the time she was 34, she had seen several friends die because of their addictions. Only after the death of her mother, who always had faith that her daughter would turn her life around, did Grimes-Cooperwood finally commit to seeking help and a different future.

“I promised my mother I would change, and that’s what I’ve done,” she says.

A place of amazing transformations

The start of her transformation began in 1999 at the Seeds of Hope residence center, located in a former convent on the grounds of St. Joseph Parish.

According to its pastor, Father Glenn O’Connor, the parish has a long history of supporting a halfway house on its grounds.

For Grimes-Cooperwood, the center was just what she needed—a place where the staff believed she could redeem her life.

“We had relapse prevention, we had spirituality class, and we had another recovering person to talk to,” she says. “We had all the support we needed here to get away from the old path and start a new life. We had three meals a day, a bed, a shower. We didn’t have that out in the madness.”

After she graduated from the program, she began to work there two nights a week and every other weekend. Then she became the manager of the residence, and later its comptroller. In 2005, she became the executive director of Seeds of Hope. Every step of the way, she has experienced the joy of finding her purpose in life.

“This is where I was meant to be,” she says. “Where else could I help people just like me? We’re here for that person who is willing to change. When you see them going to great lengths to change their lives, it means Seeds of Hope is doing an awesome job of helping them. It means they’re getting a second chance at life—to be a mother, a sister, to be employable, to be a new creation. I’ve seen their attitudes change. They want to take care of themselves and their families.”

Now 45, Grimes-Cooperwood is the poster person for the amazing transformations that Seeds of Hope helps women make in life.

“Today I have a house, I pay my bills, and I pay them on time,” she says. “I’m a mother and a wife. I can help women now because they know they can depend on me. People trust me. I can live the way [that] God intended me to live. That means the world to me. I’ll never give it up.”

She even met her husband at Seeds of Hope. When the building was flooded in 2003, Les Cooperwood was part of the clean-up crew.

“We were married in 2005. It was a good year for me,” she says.

The touch of Providence

Grimes-Cooperwood views all the changes in her life as the touch of Providence. Separated from her religious faith during her addiction, she has embraced it during her recovery.

“When I got into my addiction, I didn’t think about faith. I didn’t think about God,” she says. “But when my back was against the wall, I knew someone was there for me. It’s my faith that got me where I am today.”

Father O’Connor has noticed the importance of faith in the women’s transformations.

“A lot of the ladies who are successful in recovery finally realize they can’t do it without God,” says Father O’Connor, the president of the board of Seeds of Hope. “Once they realize that, their chances of staying sober improve tremendously. A few of the [women] have been through RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults], and they’ve been sponsored by parishioners. It’s always been a good relationship.”

Grimes-Cooperwood praises Father O’Connor for his commitment to Seeds of Hope.

“Father Glenn had enough faith to say yes to this, and he knew this would work,” she says. “He’s the driving force behind Seeds of Hope. He just makes things happen. It’s only through God touching him that this has worked. He makes it possible for us to live a different way.”

As Seeds of Hope strives to rebuild women’s lives, it also is currently renovating and expanding its facility, thanks to a federal home loan grant that allowed the center to buy the property from the archdiocese, according to Father O’Connor.

When the expansion is completed—scheduled for later this year—the residence will be able to house 17 women, up from 10. While St. Joseph Parish no longer provides direct financial assistance for Seeds of Hope, the commitment to its mission continues with the support of many parishioners.

Grimes-Cooperwood couldn’t be more thankful—for herself and all the women whose lives have been touched by Seeds of Hope.

“When we came to Seeds of Hope, we had no hope,” she says. “We just had despair, the dreadful day-in and day-out despair. Just the name Seeds of Hope gives you a sense of something better. We are a life that is planted, and we can grow and change. We all hope and pray [that] we’ll never go back to where we were. I think back all the time to when I had nothing. I came here with just a duffle bag of clothes. Now I have a life.”

(For more information about Seeds of Hope, call 317-244-0203 or visit the website at

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