Women find shelter, resources and compassion at Middleburg transitional home

Jan. 18—MIDDLEBURG — Nicole Edison moved into By Grace Transitional Home in Middleburg after her release from a four-month jail sentence and intended to immediately run away.

Instead, the 32-year-old was drawn in by the compassion and support she received from the women operating and residing at the 12-bed transitional home where she has lived for a year.

"It felt like a fresh start," said Edison who is now 16 months sober, employed, in therapy and working on getting custody of her young son.

Since opening in June 2016, the East Oak Avenue facility has served 180 women and their 102 children in need of shelter, assistance in finding jobs, improving skills and getting counseling and into recovery programs, said co-founder Tammy Clinger.

Financially supported by volunteer help, donations, grants and the Labor of Love thrift store in Middleburg, the facility which often receives referrals from area churches, was hard hit by COVID-19, said outreach coordinator Susan Groce.

"People weren't going to church and I wasn't being invited to talk to groups," said Groce.

They've continued to hold fundraisers, including bake sales, which recently raised about $8,000. An all-you-can-eat breakfast will be held March 9 at Grace Covenant Community Church in Middleburg. Adults eat for $15 and children eat for $10.

Ashlee Austinson said she feels like a success story, despite a few missteps.

She first came to live at By Grace three years ago due to the death of her mother while she was serving time in Snyder County jail.

"I'd never been on my own and now I had nowhere to go," she said.

Austinson felt a wave of comfort when she was shown her room at By Grace and met the other residents and volunteers.

"I walked into a home, not a shelter," she said.

After six months, Austinson left and found herself in trouble again, landing in several rehab facilities and jail before returning to By Grace.

The 36-year-old who "didn't know my place in the community" has since found it working at the Labor of Love thrift shop below the transitional home and living on her own nearby.

"I bought my own home and a vehicle" and with the help of Clinger, Austinson is reconnecting with her 16-year-old son.

"If it wasn't for the love, direction and compassion of these people, this wouldn't have happened," she said. "They never gave up on me."

Clinger often assures the women that "their struggles don't define them."

It's a message Stephanie DiRocco takes to heart after numerous stays at rehab facilities and jail.

She was initially hesitant about being able to get her life back on track when she moved into By Grace in October.

"You have to be open to the love and want to get your life together," the 32-year-old said of the support she's received while she's attended drug court from which she will graduate next week. "Don't quit before the miracle happens."

To donate to By Grace Transitional Home or invite Susan Groce to speak to a group, email or call 570-847-9344.