NIAGARA FALLS – When you meet Vanessa Scott, you feel her warmth. Her caring is evident in her work in the community as the founder of God’s Woman, an outreach ministry that has grown into a homeless shelter for forgotten women as well as a mentorship program for young women.
Scott, 61, has walked the road that many of the women she encounters are facing.
She became pregnant as a teen growing up in Niagara Falls’ North End. Then she eventually became a divorced, single, mother, raising four sons to adulthood as well as a grandson. She lost her job at the former Hooker Chemical and then worked at Marine Midland Bank until she was disabled in 1994.
“When I was younger I had low self-esteem and was not being raised with my dad in the house,” she said. “My mother was a hard worker to the day she died and I just looked to have a better way.”
Despite the hardships, she graduated from Niagara Falls High School, and attended business school and Niagara County Community College.
She founded God’s Woman in 1999 with a goal of helping women who have fallen through the cracks in life. The nonprofit organization opened its first homeless shelter in 2000. In 2012, with help from the members of the God’s Woman Ministry, her organization founded the Naomi-Ruth Project, a mentorship program for young women up to age 21. She said the main goal is encouraging abstinence in order to stop the problem of so many teen pregnancies in Niagara Falls.
She also has worked on projects to make her community safer, such as Weed and Seed and Continuum for Care for the homeless.
In 2009 she was given a “Women of Distinction” award by former State Sen. Antoine Thompson. She also received the Lion of Judah Award from the Dominion Life Christian Center.
God’s Woman Vanessa Scott Outreach Ministries, Inc., will present a Mother’s Day Tea fundraiser for the WINGs (Women in Need of Gainful Services) homeless shelter at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Packard Court Resource Center, 4300 Pine Ave. The event also will include a basket auction and fashion show. Baskets are gratefully accepted and those who bring donations of household items will receive auction tickets. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children. Tickets can be purchased in advance by contacting Scott at 716-990-6349. Some tickets may be available at the door. Donations also can be sent to God’s Woman at P.O. Box 722, Niagara Falls, N.Y., 14032. Scott said they also are in dire need of a new computer.
Is there a time you decided to change things in your life?
When you get in a broken marriage, broken relationships – you just get tired of that foolishness. You start asking, “What can I do to help other women?” And that’s how we started.
What did you do?
I found that if I’ve gone through it, others have. I am not by myself. Sometimes you say, “Nobody’s gone through this but me.” I was a teen mom, a single mom, just dealing with the issues of life.
Some people go through these things and have a negative outlook on life. Were you ever negative?
You can’t be. My mother made ends meet by the things she taught me and I always looked to have a better way.
How did God’s Woman start?
We started with conferences. Our first topic was “The Hurt and Broken Woman. Waiting to Exhale”... For years we would have (sharing) fellowships every month and annual conferences.
It sounds like the idea was to build self-esteem in women.
It was. There was a need. Even now I have women who come to me and talk about those conferences and how they got healing there. We dealt with the issues of the women.
Is that why you started a homeless shelter?
We decided to open the shelter in 2000 to house women in need and women in crisis … We started out on 17th Street with a three-bedroom house. (The owner didn’t charge rent). We opened in September and by October we had more than we could hold. Community Missions would call us. We just started and didn’t know what to do.
Since then you closed that house and moved to a larger house. How big is this house?
This one has over eight bedrooms … We have eight women right now. We really could take 15 (with more staff).
Does anyone get paid?
No, we are all volunteers.
Do you have any training?
No, but the good thing is, my sister (Joyce Sconiers) is a social worker. I got a lot of hands-on training. We are recognized by the Department of Social Services, who refer women to us.
Do you feel like you’ve made a difference?
Oh, yeah. I’ve taken in many women from domestic violence. A lot of them just need love.
What is your goal in the shelter? Are you breaking cycles of abuse and homelessness?
Yes. We had a teenager with us. She was pregnant and moved in with us after she had her baby. By the time she left, she was working and had her own place. I’ve run into her from time to time and she is still doing well … We try to teach them things. We might have to teach them to clean or do laundry. We do have meetings in the house on addiction and self-esteem building. We are connected with (Niagara Falls) Memorial Medical Center and will have them come in and do their series on domestic violence. We are a change agent. We are trying to get them stable enough so they can go back out into society and be successful, independent women.
Have you put a number on how many women you have helped?
We are at well over a 100. We do a lot of linkage. We can’t take everybody, but we will refer them to other places.
Is this shelter something that is really needed in Niagara Falls?
It is. There is a great need for housing for women. We filled up on March 1 and within two days we had calls for six more women needing shelter. We are all volunteers. But we could take 15 (women in the shelter) if we had permanent paid staff and someone who could be here, to stay up all night and take emergency calls in the night … I would love to open a second house, but because of finances, we can’t do it.
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