Sharon Thompson, Founder and Clinical Director of the acclaimed New Beginnings Ministry, has been honored with the 2022 Mother Joseph Award from the Sisters of Providence, Mother Joseph Province.
The Mother Joseph Award is given annually to a person who exemplifies the values and courage of Mother Joseph, the first provincial leader of the Sisters of Providence in the western U.S.
Jo Ann Showalter, SP, who nominated Sharon, drew a direct parallel to Mother Joseph’s legacy of building hospitals and schools in the Pacific Northwest with the multi-program facility which Sharon has built on approximately 20 acres in northeast Georgia.
“Like Mother Joseph’s building efforts,” said Sr. Jo Ann, “Sharon has built New Beginnings step-by-step, one building at a time.”
The most recent dormitory completed through the generosity of a local church houses teen girls between the ages of 12-17 who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.
Sharon served in the military during the Vietnam War working with hardship discharges, many of whom were using drugs. During her service, she eventually became addicted herself until a conversion experience at age 36 completely changed her life. She has not used drugs since that time nearly forty years ago.
Her early career was in retail management, but she also found herself visiting women in the local jail. Sharon’s work was so compelling that eventually the County Sheriff asked her in 1998 to become the official chaplain for the Franklin County Detention Center where she served until 2015.
Sharon began the New Beginnings ministry (www.newbeginningslife.net) more than 25 years ago after offering a recovering addict the opportunity to stay on her couch rather than risk relapsing. But she knew that was not sustainable so she purchased a trailer to put on property she owned near Martin, Georgia. The “informal” assistance grew rapidly and today New Beginnings is assessed at $4 million, with five dormitories (including one that welcomes the children of clients), seven transitional housing units for graduates and a job program that places women at local businesses.
It is staffed by many former clients and has certified rehabilitation counsellors on staff. More than 2,000 clients have passed through the program which claims a 94.6 percent success rate, one of the highest in the nation.
“It’s God who makes the difference,” said Sharon. “We have to keep on reaching out because there will always be women and girls who need help. This is unfortunate but the number of women that are in need of help continues to grow.”
New Beginnings does not receive any government funding or insurance re-imbursement but is entirely supported by local churches. This allows it to offer a completely scripture-based program. Clients attend praise and worship services or preaching sessions twice a day except for no service on Friday evenings when they attend to personal needs. Once women reach the six month mark in the 12-month program and they begin working, they are expected to cover a portion of monthly costs.
Sharon, affectionally known to clients and friends as “Granny,” is a certified clinical supervisor for the Georgia Addiction Counsellors Association and an ordained minister of the Word of Life Church. She studied Counseling psychology at Almeda University and has a Master’s degree in Life Counseling from Almeda.
Sharon also founded an ecumenical food bank which still exists along with a very active thrift store. Proceeds from the store help clients.
The presentation of the award took place before about 100 friends, co-workers and New Beginnings clients. Sr. Jo Ann is Sharon’s sibling. A brother, Don Herb, also attended.