Battered women’s ministry starts with call from God, progresses with help from friends

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011

By Nyla Smith


AMA – Shirley Sims uses the pain of her past to heal the wounded of today.

As a child, Sims said she witnessed her mother be abused physically, but when she was growing up in the early 1960s, domestic violence was not discussed outside of the home.

This was no longer the case when Sims said she received a vision from God in January 2008 to rescue women in abusive situations.

Sims said she did not immediately move on the call, and it was not until six months later that Alpha Daughters of Zion Outreach manifested.

“I was instructed by God to provide a safe haven for these women,” said Sims. “And Alpha Daughters was birthed in July of 2008, with only a dollar.”

Soon after, the organization was blessed with the $750 needed to gain its non-profit status. This status allows ADOZ to receive donations from other organizations tax free.

Sims quickly recruited the help of two other women she served with in the local church community.

“Gaynell Coleman and Ivy Williams are in partnership with me running this organization,” said Sims. “All our work is strictly voluntary. We get no paycheck.”

The three women have worked tirelessly in assisting women physically, emotionally and spiritually, but this does not occur without cost.

“Once we had to use our personal money to send a resident to safety in Texas,” said Sims.

The organization is supported by monetary donations. She said local churches have been very supportive financially, and the St. Charles United Way recently donated $2,000 to aid a homeless family from Haiti.

The Haitian family was the outreach’s first homeless case, and the organization is now qualified to assist homeless families as well.

Since then the group has applied for a grant with United Way, and they have also hosted an annual banquet for the past two years to raise money.

ADOZ is the only safe haven shelter in St. Charles Parish and works with the parish’s Victim Assistance Department.

When victims call 911 for help, they are processed through the sheriff’s office and administered medical assistance, if needed. The individual is then asked if they would like to go to a shelter.

If so, ADOZ is contacted, and the individual is taken to the safe house.

“The residents are allowed to stay up to 30 days,” said Sims.

Residents are also provided counseling, assistance with finding a job if they are not already employed and a safe dwelling away from their previous situation.

ADOZ also hosts counseling sessions called “Talk It Out.” The group meets twice a week and is open to the public.

Coleman said her role with the organization as program counselor allows her to uplift her clients, but it is just as rewarding for her.

“It’s a joy to help uplift them and guide them to the Lord,” said Coleman.

Williams described the sessions as an intervention and, in some cases, a deterrent from future occurrences.

“We’ve discovered that women are reluctant to discuss their personal problems with their clergies and family members,” said Williams. “This outlet enables them to speak freely and honestly.”

All sessions are confidential, and participants must sign a non-disclosure form.

Sims said 14 women have sought shelter in the home since it opened, and none have returned. She attributes the program’s success to the ongoing outreach and counseling sessions.

The program also assists women in the Nelson Correctional Facility with mentoring and in the past has distributed gifts to the inmates and toys to their children.

Individuals in a domestic violence situation can seek Alpha Daughters of Zion directly by calling a 24-hour hotline, 985-287-2268.

Monetary donations can be mailed to Alpha Daughters of Zion Outreach Center, 10757 River Road, Ama, LA 70031. All donations are tax deductible, and the organization can provide a donation receipt.