February 26, 2014 Edition

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Butterfly Ranch transforming women's lives

Staff member Kenneth Bounds and senior student Jeannie Allen work to remove damaged flooring at Butterfly Ranch in Swifton. Students spend time every day working around the women's center and at other locations as part of their healing.

Megan Heyl
Staff Writer

Stacy Heim began treatment at Butterfly Ranch in Swifton with little connection left to her family. The Department of Human Services had taken her daughter, and she hadn't seen her in 16 months. Through completion of the program, not only was Heim able to regain custody of her daughter, she also met the man who cared for her in his children's shelter.

Bro. Ray Fultner, a long-time supporter of the ranch and pastor at Jacksonport Baptist Church, ran the Little Blessings Children's Home where Heim's daughter was placed. Fultner had already been a long-time supporter of Butterfly Ranch and would bring Heim's daughter on visitation days to see her mother.

Now Heim has successfully completed the program and works at the center alongside those who helped her through the program. She and her daughter live in a mobile home that was donated for staff housing at Butterfly Ranch by Fultner before Heim even started the program.

This is just one of many miraculous stories that has come out of the 10-month, faith-based residential program started by Mark and Jessica Duncan. The program is open to women who are ready to overcome problems associated with alcohol abuse, substance abuse, eating disorders, sexual abuse, physical abuse and depression.

Jessica said that Heim was determined to get better and that's the type of women Butterfly Ranch is open to. "Our girls don't leave. They come and they stay," Jessica said.

The 20-bed facility was started by the Duncans as a way to help those who are going through the same problems they had both been through.

Jessica recalled a morning in 2004 when a knock on her door led her face-to-face with two girls who she could tell had been abusing drugs. Jessica knew the signs because she had experienced them firsthand and she wanted to help those girls.

While one girl used the phone, she spoke with the other and told her she understood what they were going through. "They left. There was no miraculous transformation."

Jessica said she was crushed after that and prayed to figure out why God had sent those girls to her if she couldn't help them. That was when she knew that one day she would open a place for women to get help.

Later in life, after meeting her husband, Mark, who shared the same passion for helping others, an interesting opportunity presented itself. Mark was serving at Murphy's Chapel in Swifton when it was decided to join its congregation with Swifton Assembly of God. Rev. Carl Neal said to Mark he would donate Murphy's Chapel and the property it sets on if Mark received 501(c)(3) status to begin a women's center.

Opened in 2011

In 2011, the Duncans did just that and opened Butterfly Ranch where the church used to meet. The center is dedicated to the memory of Mark's late cousin, Stephanie Baughn, who he was very close to and was his motivation to stop his substance abuse. The name comes from her gravestone, which is in the shape of a butterfly.

Since then, Mark and Jessica have converted the church's old gym into a dormitory, added a mobile home for staff housing and are building a shower house to provide more showers for the women enrolled.

"Our construction costs have been our biggest hurdle," Mark said. Much of the center's costs are covered by donations through fundraisers. However, the girls also work afternoons providing lawn care, detailing cars for Anderson Car Lot and have even pulled weeds at Tish Worlow's farm in Sedgwick. Money earned through these activities also goes to pay for expenses around the facility.

Before they work, the women spend the morning hours in class working to complete personalized contracts that reflect their needs best. The center uses the Teen Challenge program, from which Mark is a graduate. "I know how effective it is," he said. The morning classes help to prepare the women spiritually for the afternoon work.

Jessica said they try to strike a balance between discipline and being family friendly. "Our goal is to reunite families," she said. Jessica said her favorite experiences come from family visitation day. "You start seeing healing take place, families being put back together, mothers reunited with their daughters."

Jessica said she believes Butterfly Ranch is one of the more flexible programs and provides a variety of lessons that are tailored to each woman's specific needs.

"We love our girls, because so many have lost that in their lives," she said. "They leave strong. They leave as conquerors."

Those interested in applying to Butterfly Ranch can find student application forms at www.butterflyranch.org. For more information, call 870-485-2000.

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