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January 7, 2013

Mayor honors Reba Harris at prayer breakfast

Gilead House director helps women in need.

Reba Harris is convinced there are no “disposable” people.

That’s why since 1998, she’s been taking care of women who are trying to leave behind lives of substance abuse and incarceration.

The director of the Gilead House, a halfway program for women, was honored Monday by Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight as the 2013 Faith and Community in Action award recipient.

The award, which Goodnight announced at his annual prayer breakfast, came as a shock to Harris, who said she was looking around the room at people she thought might receive it.

The award was created by Goodnight to honor spiritually based individuals or groups who contribute, through their time and talent, to making a positive difference in the Kokomo community.

“This is a population not too many people talk about, and not too many people worry about, unless it’s one of your family members,” Harris said. “They’ve made some bad choices — who hasn’t? — and they got caught.”

Financial problems, legal problems, housing, food, everything falls under Gilead’s purview when it comes to helping women recover from a “hopeless condition of mind and body,” to quote the Big Book of AA.

“We tell people to bring all their troubles here,” she said. “We don’t say we can’t handle something; we’ll get them to someone who can.”

“She’s doing the work that needs to be done, and she does it in a very personal way,” Goodnight said.

Most of the women who arrive at Gilead House are coming straight from incarceration, and the program provides a respite from all of the people and circumstances which led to problems. Women are expected to comply with rules and stay alcohol- and drug-free, and in return can get help.

A felony record means some public assistance is not available, so the program tries to find solutions.

“If you go to the license bureau, all they can do is to help you get your license. They don’t take any notice of the fact you’re sleeping in your car,” she said.

She’s been doing this kind of work for a long time, having retired from Delco Electronics after 32 years, where she served as an employee assistance representative, helping employees deal with addictions and family problems.

“Reba’s compassionate nature, coupled with her tireless dedication to serving women with substance dependency, has enabled hundreds of women to rebuild their lives and overcome the negative effects of addictive behavior,” Goodnight said.

Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at scott.smith@kokomotribune.com.

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