In 2007, Vikki Luna had a full-time job working with the juvenile justice system and individuals suffering from substance abuse. During this time, she identified a generational cycle of abuse and suffering, particularly among women and their children, and noticed the severe lack of services and resources for women suffering from addiction, mental health issues, and trauma.
Although happy with her current job, Vikki knew that she could do more to help. With the belief that she could help provide a service to change lives and help stop the cycle of abuse, rather than simply treat the aftereffects, she quit her full-time job to open a recovery facility of her own.
10 years later, The Light House Recovery Program is still going strong. Since its inception, the primary objective of The Light House has been to not only provide healing for women and children recovering from and affected by substance abuse, but to also intercept elementary school-age children living in poverty and high crime areas from drugs, alcohol, and gang-related activities. The Light House mentors and provides shelter for women who are in the process of gaining sobriety and overcoming the effects of trauma through therapy, support, accountability, empowerment, and skills training. Women involved in The Light House Program are taught self-reliance skills to ensure they will be able to sustain themselves and their families upon graduation.
The Light House program consists of three phases that participants transition through on their way to healing and clean and sober living. The first, called the Residential Phase, sees program participants enrolled in on-site classes scheduled Monday through Thursday, along with mental health assessments and weekly counseling with a therapist. Participants enroll in core recovery classes for at least three months in addition to life-skills and career preparation courses.
In phase two, participants begin incorporating education and/or employment components into their daily routine, such as job seeking, resume writing, offsite classes, or working at the Cornerstone Coffee Company located in downtown Fresno. Stationed inside the Cornerstone Church, the Cornerstone Coffee Company is proudly operated by The Light House, with 100% of proceeds benefiting the program’s operations and services. Participants who work at Cornerstone gain employable job skills and become comfortable interacting with the public in a customer service environment, while patrons enjoy a delicious cup of coffee with a cause. Cornerstone also sells “Light-WEAR”, wearable articles that are hand-made and designed by women enrolled in program. Each piece of Light-WEAR is unique and comes with the story of the woman who designed it attached.
(Photo Credit: The Cornerstone Coffee Company)
A piece of Light-WEAR made by a Light House alumni named Renea, with her attached story: “My name is Renea. Before the Light House, I had no hope, no joy, and felt I’d be trapped forever. The Light House taught me about God’s love and that I could start living a beautiful and healthy life. Today I am sober, have a full-time job, my own car, and a great relationship with my children. I am happier than I’ve ever been. This place changed my whole life.”
In phase three, graduated participants can choose to enter the sober living phase or move into independent housing. At this stage, participants continue attending therapy and recovery meetings, and are encouraged to interact with other Light House alumni to help new women who are entering the program. Self-reliance and accountability are reinforced at every step of the program, and participants enrolled in aftercare are still expected to maintain a budget, locate or maintain their current employment, and work to rebuild relationships with their children and families.
In addition to direct services for women, Light House runs an after school program called “Intercept” for K-6 children, in collaboration with the City of Fresno Neighborhood Revitalization and Building Broken Neighborhoods program. At least twice a week, local neighborhood children attend Intercept where they have a safe, community area for both study and play. The goal of this program is to “intercept” these children at an early age to prevent alcohol and drug abuse or their participation in gang-related activities.
(Photo Credit(s): Intercept Afterschool Program)
Annually, Light House has the capacity to serve approximately 36 women and reach 60 children in both residential treatment and transitional aftercare. The women served by Light House have multiple life problems that must be addressed for treatment to be effective and successful. Average program participants are 28-years-old, with the majority having abused methamphetamine or other drugs. 100% of Light House participants have a history of mental health disorders and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and/or anxiety.
In the 10 years since Light House first opened its doors, the results and outcomes of the program have consistently remained exceptional: at least 80% of Light House participants graduate from the program within one year and maintain sobriety; 100% of all school-age children intercepted by and associated with Light House services have demonstrated increased academic performance, school attendance, and positive behaviors; 100% of program participants demonstrate an increase in self-sufficiency skills, as measured by productivity and employability; and 100% of presenting mental health issues among participants and their children show measurable decreases. The results and outcomes of The Light House program are so exceptional, in fact, that in 2016, the number of Light House program graduates actually exceeded that of other, similar programs in Fresno.
Between the operation of the Cornerstone Coffee Company, the creation and distribution of Light-WEAR, the facilitation of the Intercept Afterschool Program, and the operations of the recovery program itself, one might think that The Light House has a large staff and even larger budget. However, The Light House manages to maintain over 80% positive outcomes each year with only a three-person staff and an annual budget of around $180,000. When asked how this tremendous feat is possible, Executive Director Vikki Luna said, “It sounds crazy, and when people hear that, they think it can’t possibly be true. But it’s what we’ve been doing for the past 10 years – we’re dedicated and we believe we can do it.”
As a nonprofit, 100% of The Light House’s operations and costs are supported through donations. Currently, The Light House is seeking donations to secure the purchase of the property that countless women have called home over the past decade.
If you are interested in supporting The Light House’s efforts, please click here to view their GoFundMe page. Donations may also be sent via their website. Keep scrolling for photos of The Light House.
The Light House has a total of 12 beds for current program participants. A few beds are offered at no cost to select program participants who demonstrate a commitment to clean and sober living.
Volunteer Night Monitors prepare breakfast, lunch, and snacks for program participants, as well as dinner three nights a week. Women participating in the program prepare dinner for themselves three nights a week, including weekends.
In the common and living area, monthly group meetings take place wherein program participants are encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and concerns about the program one-on-one with the Executive Director. Participants are also allowed to utilize this room to spend time with their children.
Participants meet with a therapist at least once a week to work through trauma and discuss treatment plans.
The Central Valley Community Foundation is proud to spotlight nonprofits like The Light House Recovery Program on our blog to share the stories of organizations working to make a difference in our communities.