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Ministry thrives to help women heal
Thrift stores support ABBA House mission
A-Abba  House pic1
Jada Fiorentino, right, leads a prayer session with Amber Koentop and Shannon Holcombe, graduates of Abba House, a residential ministry aimed at helping women with addictions heal. - photo by Michele Hester Dawson County News

Jada Fiorentino doesn't like to look back at the life she once lived, the life of drug addition, sexual abuse and self-destruction.

But if her story helps other woman face and overcome their demons, she'll stand up proud and shout her testimony from the rafters.

"I do what I do today so my life wasn't in vain. I know in my heart of hearts I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing," she said. "And there is not a better feeling in the world than that."

Fiorentino's triumph over tragedy is a familiar tale among the women who have found meaning in their lives through a local ministry with a mission to make women whole again.

"I love these girls," said Abba House Co-founder Chris Sharp. "They're just like you. They are medicated because of pain and lifestyle. If I had walked in the shoes and lived the life they had, I'd be a drunk, too. I'd be doing something because I wouldn't want to feel or remember."

Abba House is a faith-based residential treatment facility near the Dawson-Forsyth County line in Silver City that is supported through revenue generated at two thrift stores.

Fiorentino, who was court-ordered as part of her drug sentence, completed the minimum 15-month program in 22 months and now serves as the ministry's program director.

"I have the honor and the privilege of walking alongside these other women and who better to pick because I know all their scams," she laughs. "I know all their games. I know everything they're up to and everything they're doing."

Sharp said Abba House gives women the chance they need.

"They need someone to show them what love is like unconditionally," she said.

Growing up, Fiorentino found no solace at home with her family.

"There was no God in my house. Nobody said I love you. There were no hugs. As far back as I remember, I remember fear," she said, recalling an incident when she found her stepfather on top of her mother with his hands around her throat.

By the time she was 12, her stepfather had started molesting her.

Soon after, she was placed in foster care and she began to run away in search of an escape.

"But you know what little girls do when they run away and they are trying to survive. I did all those things," she said. "I started doing drugs, because I realized I didn't have to feel any of those things. The drugs became such a problem that by the time I was 13 or 14, I was probably a full blown cocaine addict."

In and out of jail for minor offenses as a juvenile, Fiorentino landed in prison when she was 23 and her two young children were sent to live with her parents.

"I realized after that I put them in the same situation I grew up in. I was just a mess, an absolute mess," she said. "Jail becomes a safety net. Institutions become safety nets."

Still, it wasn't enough for her to get clean, until Oct. 23, 2013 when she was found in a ditch on the side of the road with a needle in her arm.

She woke up handcuffed to the bed.

"This was the second time this has happened in one year," she said. "I was hopeless. I wanted to die. I didn't want to live. I woke up and thought I can't even do that right. I can't even die right."

Nine felony counts later, Fiorentino was facing a 30-year sentence for possession and distribution.

"I cried out to God and I said, ‘If you're really real and you're really out there and this is really true and not some big farce of a joke and you're sitting up there making fun and poking a stick at me, do something, help me, make me want to stop doing drugs. Make me want to live,'" she said.

A few days later she met a woman in jail who told her about Abba House.

"I know now that was God answering a prayer for me. That was God doing for me what I couldn't do for myself," she said. "I had to take responsibility for what was mine.

"I learned how to do those things at ABBA House. I learned how to live at ABBA House."