The Eve Center: A Sisterhood that Gives Back
Photography by Brian Ambs
The Eve Center is a sisterhood. The women who benefit from the agency would agree with this description.
“The Center is a safe, confidential, joyful place,” Cinny Roy, the center’s executive director, says. “There is a feel that’s unique and we know it’s God.”
Rose Gebhard, one of the clients-turned-peer counselor who is sitting across the table from Roy, gently nods her head in agreement.
The Eve Center was formed by Roy with only a notebook full of materials, a laptop and a cell phone; no office, board or volunteers, only a passion to train women volunteers to be paraprofessional peer counselors to other women. The word “peer” is very important here because this counseling method joins women’s life experiences with training so other women can experience relational, spiritual and emotional healing.
“These women,” Roy says, “have been through abuse, grief, domestic dysfunction, eating issues, depression, fear, family relationships torn apart – the list goes on and on.” She points out “we’ve all been through struggles, wounds, loss. Now we, with Christ’s help, offer a guiding hand to help other women through as well.”
In June 2004, the faith-based organization opened its doors with 11 clients and a group of new volunteer peer counselors. Today more than 300 have been trained, 85 active volunteer peer counselors seeing more than 100 women each month in face-to-face counseling, book studies and recovery groups.
Gebhard shares how alcoholism and marital problems caused brokenness within her, causing her to hide. “I was not being heard. I lost my voice in the mix,” she says, referring to her past chaos. “The Eve Center has taught me to confront my issues in a healthy way. The sisterhood drew me in and put me on a path to God’s healing.”
This time, Roy nods in agreement.
When Ashely McWhorter, a former client and recent board member, enters the room, Roy greets her with a loving hug, a tangible example of the sisterhood. McWhorter explains, “I am a two-time client,” meaning she needed help as a young married woman as well as later when she was unemployed. Roy reminisces about the time McWhorter received a job offer in the midst of one of their peer counseling sessions. The women share a smile that comes from a deep, shared space in their hearts.
McWhorter says. “I needed to go to counseling for me. I needed to heal myself first, then help immediate family.” She says her life got to the point where she felt trapped and “lived in so many spaces in my head... I didn’t want to go home or even go to church.”
Gebhard agrees, nodding her head.
“The center,” McWhorter continues, “taught me how to be accountable for my own actions,” which has made a great difference in her life.
Roy is no stranger to struggles either. She openly talks about her experience with anger issues and an abortion. “It’s important to acknowledge all your stuff” in order to experience the healing process. “You don’t need to be fake anymore.”
Exposing the hidden struggles is a key aspect for healing to occur. This type of vulnerability is what the Eve Center is based on, and it’s how the sisterhood gains its strength and remains trustworthy among the women. One has to back up and deal with her wound in order to mature.
Roy leaves for a moment as Gebhard and McWhorter share more of their sisterhood stories. Roy returns with Gina Sanders, a client-turned-volunteer. She initially approached the Eve Center to help. “I wanted to give guidance and mentorship as a career,” she says, “So I thought I could (do that) here at the Eve Center.”
What Sanders didn’t expect is that she needed to be a client before she could learn how to give that guidance and mentorship. It became apparent to Sanders that she needed to deal with her past of being sexually abused as a child. “I realized we needed to figure it out together, woman to woman.” This is when peer counseling became attractive to Sanders and when she began to embrace the center as a place of catharsis.
Four different women with diverse backgrounds and experiences shared and laughed with one another around a table at the Eve Center, which is natural to them. They trust each other because they have all “been through it.” Most of all, though, they depend on each other as a sisterhood; not to simply survive, but to thrive, then give this gift from God to other women in need of sisterly love and healing.
The Eve Center – HQ/Central is located at 7038 Blue Ash Road, Cincinnati, OH 45236.
The Eve Center – West at the New Community Church is located at 3707 Edgewood Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45211.
The Eve Center – North at Center Pointe Christian Church is located at 5962 Hamilton Mason Road, Liberty Township, OH 45011.
You can reach them at 513.985.9959, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website at www.evecenter.org.