Burnsville, MS

"Home of the Tenn-Tom Waterway"

Residents and organizers who made the Bridge House possible gather for the grand opening. (Credit: Gary Matthews)

Having been informed by judges and law enforcement officials that those who go through rehabilitation are often forced to return to the environment responsible for their addiction, Bridge House is a facility to help women who have gone through drug rehabilitation avoid conditions that contribute to the issue. Local churches, businesses, and individuals donated money, materials, and a home for use as a halfway house to help women integrate into the community, and offer a safe and healthy setting away from harmful influences. We accomplished this with no government assistance.

It all started with when the Burnsville Pentecostal Church changed it’s name to The Bridge at Burnsville, adapting to fit their new vision of connecting grace and goodwill to community. In 2017, The Bridge at Burnsville had a major decision to make: they were in dire need of a new church facility, as their previous one was destroyed in 2010 and they’d been provisionally making do ever since, but also wanted to do something for the community that would embody their vision. Two ladies in the church, Linda Downs and Gena Black, both of whom had been involved in Celebrate Recovery, satellite prison ministry, and addiction rehabilitation for years, presented us with the idea of a transitional home. They expressed their frustration concerning all the work and resources they’ve put into seeing women fully rehabilitated, only to be forced back into the same environment that was so detrimental to their sobriety. Most of these women simply had no place to go after rehabilitation. Another member of our church, Denise Timbes, had a house in the middle of Burnsville that had been vacant for years. An idea was born, and she offered to remodel the house so we could use it as a transitional home. We decided to place a hold on building our new church facility, choosing instead to invest in the Bridge House.

We didn’t open the Bridge House to draw attention to ourselves or our church, but to support our community and county. We are working on establishing a 501(c)(3) status, and chose to separate it from the church to see our community lead the way. We wanted to see grace and goodwill in action. Individuals, companies, and churches of all denominations have partnered with us to make this happen.

A massive help in turning this vision to reality, our partners include: Iuka United Methodist Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Iuka, Tishomingo Baptist Church, First Free Will Baptist of Iuka, New Beginnings Fellowship of Iuka, S&G Gutters & Construction, Ultimate Fitness in Iuka, Farmhouse Flip and Finds, Harbin Heating & Air ConditioningB & J’s Supermarket, and Mississippi State Representative Bubba Carpenter. We owe a special thanks to Denise Timbs, for remodeling the house and allowing us to use the residence for the Bridge House, and Jason Wilkins from Farmhouse Flips and Finds for donating the majority of the furniture and decor in the house. We are also grateful to Gena Black and Linda Downs, the originators and facilitators of this vision and the day to day care and activities at Bridge House (we could not do it without these two champions!), and every business, individual, and church, that has worked with us to make this vision a reality.

We choose to be united by our similarities rather than separated by our differences. We all want to see the Bridge House succeed.

Gena’s Story

I am the resident manager of the Bridge House, the answer to a 9-year-long prayer and desire to help women coming out of addiction get free and reclaim their lives. It began with my own deliverance from drugs and alcohol, on February 13, 2009 when Celebrate Recovery’s alcohol and drug program helped me walk out of addiction. At the end of the program, one of the last things they asked was, “How can you give back? What would you do to help others find the freedom from addiction you’ve found?” That was easy for me: provide a safe place for women to live, learn, and grow spiritually in a healthy environment with plenty of love and encouragement. That’s what we have here at the Bridge House and are striving for daily. It’s the answer to my prayer, and many others’ in the community. The beauty lies in our community coming together, joining hands to fight this horrible plague that is destroying the lives of our friends, neighbors, and families. Together, we are committed to the fight.

Kayla’s Story

Because of the Bridge House, at 33-years-old I am living and breathing freedom from both prison bars and the chains of addictions.

Growing up, I had a happy and normal enough childhood with all the opportunities afforded to any other American woman of my generation. I seized my fair share of said opportunities, making good grades to go on and graduate from the University of Mississippi in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. By this point, I was in my second year of marriage with a son on the way. Sounds like everything was on track, right? Well, it was, according to my assessment. And that’s how I had lived my life: by my own terms and planning.

So when my precious baby was born fighting for his life, turning my life and everything I had worked for upside down, I handled it by my own hand. I prayed everyday that my little boy would be okay, and after 88 days in the NICU he finally got to come home to me. I knew that having my baby boy home was a blessing, but the whole situation took such a hefty toll on me that without help, it would lead me down a road of rebellion from life and everything that seemed good and right in my mind. I abandoned my son, threw away my career, and spent most of my time in jail. I had become so jaded that I had lost all hope in humanity, but all of those 911 prayers I’d thrown up from my jail cell hadn’t fallen on deaf ears.

One Sunday afternoon in Tishomingo County Jail, I met Linda Downs and Gena Black during their Celebrate Recovery jail ministry, and it changed my life. They spoke about the Bridge House, and it piqued my interest. I knew I wanted my life to change, but didn’t know how to change it. I was put on drug court and went into rehab for three months, during which Linda stayed in touch so I could later be a part Bridge House. Since entering in December, I have returned to the workforce in a position that allows me to use my degree, acquired my driver’s license and a car, strengthened my spirituality, and have a restored relationship with my now thriving nine-year-old son.

Valerie’s Story

I was raised in a very good home. My mother was the secretary of my church, my father a deacon. Even though I was taught the right way to live, I started down a 20 year path of destruction due to drugs, letting them steal my life. I racked up several DUIs, overdoses, detox stays, and eventually lost custody of my seven-year-old daughter. I didn’t know how to live without drugs, and ended up in rehab for 30 days. While I was there, I learned to change the way I think and act, deciding to come to Bridge House. It changed my life, and was a defining moment in my recovery. I was introduced to Gena Black and Linda Downs, two warriors for Christ, but I was soon to discover they were warriors for me too!

The Bridge House has not only shown me how to live a life in recovery, but how to live a life with integrity. I was saved, and now have peace in my life I never thought possible. The Bridge House is not just a place to live — it’s a home with the best family anyone could ask for, without whom I don’t know where I’d be. Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for Bridge House and my church family. They saved my life, helping to free me from bondage and develop the skills to live a productive life in recovery. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Akeisha’s Story

I have been an addict since I was 18-years-old. I’ve lived the way a person should never live and done things a person should never do. In February 2015, I went to prison, found God, and my life hasn’t been the same since. I have only been out of prison for two months, and have found the most amazing opportunity in the Bridge House. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and a chance to learn how to become a woman of integrity. Growing up, my mother taught me to get high when life throws you problems — it’s sad but true. I’m now 28, taking this fresh start with the Bridge House and running with it. Everyone who has anything to do with this miracle at the Bridge House deserves a loud thank you.