Healing Vine Harbor: A safe harbor for women in need

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Healing Vine Harbor is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to transform the lives of homeless and displaced single women, helping them to transition from unsafe or unstable living situations to self-sufficiency.

One of the ways Healing Vine Harbor works toward this goal is through monthly TEACH Workshops.  The name is an acronym that defines what Healing Vine accomplishes through these workshops: “Teaching, Educating, And Creating Hope.”  The free workshops feature guest speakers that encourage and educate women on topics like housing resources, health and wellness, employment preparedness, financial security, self-care, and debt reduction.  “Our goal is to support them and help them feel empowered,” says Founder and Executive Director Tracey Questell.

A group learning about money habits and tools

At TEACH Workshops, women are given the opportunity to shop in the Healing Closet where they can obtain free clothing, household items, toiletries, and accessories.  They also receive Healing Bags, backpacks filled with toiletries and personal care projects. The Mint Hill Women’s Club has been an important partner in stocking Healing Bags for these women.

Healing Vine Harbor also donates Healing Bags to young women at Garinger High School.  “Besides housing homeless women, we also want to help young women transitioning out of foster care,” says Questell, who points out that the McKinney Vento Act guarantees that homeless children have the right to public education.  Healing Vine performs outreach with these “McKinney Vento” girls and young women preparing to age out of the foster care system, like a recent pizza lunch and vision board workshop.

A group working on vision boards

Questell officially founded Healing Vine Harbor in 2013, but in reality, obtaining 501c3 status brought structure to the work Questell had been pursuing personally for a long time.  Originally from New York, Questell started mentoring young women in the late 80s and early 90s. “My love of helping others and serving others, that came from my parents,” says Questell.  “I’ve always wanted to make a difference and help others. Healing Vine Harbor just took it to a different level.”

Healing Vine Harbor’s biggest goal now is to obtain a space of their own.  They currently run workshops in a space near Johnson and Wales, but bringing things in every month is tough.  Questell envisions a home base where they could store resources, set up a permanent space for the Healing Closet, hold workshops and, ultimately, house women who are in transition.

To help fund a future residence, Healing Vine’s 4th Annual Purple Wing Soiree Fundraiser will be held on Saturday, April 18, at the Concord Hilton Garden Inn.  MC-ed by WSOC-TV’s Erica Bryan, the event will feature dinner, a silent auction, and entertainment courtesy of R&B vocalist Jeff Redd, DJ Stacey Blackman and comedian Pat G’Orge Walker.  All proceeds from the event will go toward Healing Vine Harbor’s future residence for single homeless women.

Obtaining a residence is Questell’s primary goal right now, but ultimately, Healing Vine is about more than giving homeless women a place to spend the night.  “Lots of programs provide housing, but not life skills,” says Questell. “A place to sleep is not enough. You won’t be able to keep a job without skills, or you’ll get evicted if you can’t manage money.  We’re trying to break generational cycles of homelessness and poverty.”

A group practicing couponing

“I try to help the women build a sisterhood,” continues Questell.  “A lot of women out there, they’re isolated. That’s how they become trapped in situations of domestic violence or caught up in sex trafficking because they don’t have anywhere to go.  They don’t have a support system, so they get pulled into negative and harmful situations.”

In honor of the work Questell is doing to empower women and influence future generations, the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women Club is honoring her by inducting her into the Women’s History Hall of Fame.  “This recognition is basically acknowledging the efforts and the work I do, and the difference I’m making in women,” says Questell, who was encouraged to apply by a fellow workshop volunteer. “They’re purpose is to empower women.”

Tracey Questell speaking to a group of women in Healing Vine Harbor’s signature purple

If you are interested in helping Questell in her work, you can donate through their website (www.healingvineharbor.com) or Paypal account (paypal.com/us/fundraiser/charity/1250810).  Choose Healing Vine Harbor as your charity on smile.amazon.com, and Amazon makes a donation every time you make a purchase.  Questell also welcomes any leads on a property Healing Vine could utilize, and Questell encourages potential donors to think outside the box.  “It could be a house, an abandoned school, a hotel. It could be a place to house two people or ten,” says Questell. “We’re willing and ready and prepared to take some steps forward so we can develop this.”

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: marybeth@minthilltimes.com