Las Vegas gala will benefit Walter Hoving Home that works with women in crisis

Drugs. Alcohol. Prostitution. When life gets too tough, some women seek help at the Walter Hoving Home.

For the past decade, it has been a faith-based ministry at 4641 Corral Place in Las Vegas, aimed at getting women back on their feet and living productive lives.

“We don’t believe this is a rehabilitation center — this is not a recovery home,” executive director Sylvia Marchael said. “It’s a discipleship program where lives are transformed.”

The Walter Hoving program, established in 1967 by the CEO of Tiffany & Co., for whom it was named, offers six-month and 12-month residential programs along with a 12-month re-entry phase for women ages 17 or older with alcohol and drug addiction and other life-controlling problems.

It operates a home in Garrison, N.Y., and a home in Pasadena, Calif., along with the home in Las Vegas, according to its website. The Walter Hoving Home in Las Vegas plans to mark its 10th anniversary with a gala planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 20 at the JW Marriott, 221 N. Rampart Blvd.

Marchael knows all too well what the women’s lives have been like. She had a 23-year addiction to alcohol and has been sober for 10 years. In fact, all of the home’s staff members, who live on site, are graduates of the program.

“We feel, who better to encourage these ladies, to mentor them, to just walk down that path with them, than somebody who’s been there?” Marchael said.

The home is in a neighborhood setting, but the rules are strict: no TV; no cellphones; no internet; no smoking; and no communication with outside friends or family for the first 30 days.

The women live there for a year, paying a $500 entry fee and $500 a month. It costs about $2,000 a month per woman to run the home. The program, which boasts an 86 percent success rate, receives no government assistance.

The program includes daily devotions, reading the Bible in its entirety, and each woman facing her particular addiction by understanding what led her down that path, whether it was grief, rejection, abandonment, molestation or some other factor.

The original Walter Hoving Home near New York City sits on a 29-acre estate and accommodates 73 women. The one in Pasadena, opened in 1984, occupies a historic hotel and has 53 women.

By comparison, the Las Vegas home, now in a 6,000-square-foot former residence, serves 10.

“I prefer the smaller home; it’s more intimate, a smaller setting, so it’s more personal,” Marchael said. “You connect on a different level.”

The most critical component, she said, is helping the women find their personal identity, to further their sense of self-worth and value.

Some of the students shared their stories (their last names are withheld to protect their privacy). Tara, 23, had gotten into drugs and spent five months in jail. She came to Hoving as part of a house arrest agreement with the court.

Tara said she experienced an “a-ha” moment about six months into the program. That’s when her way of thinking changed and her growth accelerated. Her change of heart allowed her to let go of her past and reconnect with her family, she said.

The part that helped her the most was the learning center activities, she said, even though the topics were “hard to face.”

Ideally, the women spend about 18 hours in the learning center each week. There, they read stories of survival and success of those who have overcame addiction, abuse, rape, molestation, incarceration and abandonment. The Hoving Home students tackle the subjects that are the hardest to face, but in the end, provide the healing they need to move on with their lives. The curriculum was created by Sally Girgis, who has a Master’s Degree both in social work and education.

“(The Learning Center is) where you have to deal with things, where you have to face those trials in your life,” said another resident, Iasia, 25.

Iasia was battling drugs. She was brought up in the church and would pray to overcome her addiction. Then she found the Hoving Home.

It took a while to get in sync with the home’s rules, she said, adding she would sneak food into the bedroom and try to use the phone, actions that put her on restriction.

“Before one restriction ended, I was on another one,” she said, chuckling.

Iasia lost her father three weeks into the program.

“So, having the support of all the staff and the ladies in the home helped me, and I really had to surrender and say, ‘I’m not in control,’ ” she said. “After that surrender, I felt peace.”

Tina, 50, who arrived at Hoving with an alcohol issue, encountered no such difficulty with the home’s message.

“As soon as I came in the door, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy,” she said. “I felt love. I knew this was the place for me.”

Tickets for the gala are $100 at tinyurl.com/h8nkrln. Visit walterhovinghome.org or call 702-386-1965.

To reach Summerlin Area View reporter Jan Hogan, email jhogan@viewnews.com or call 702-387-2949.

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