Hope for those facing addiction.
For a Brighter Tomorrow brings hope, help to people facing addictions
As friends for 35 years, Jackie Maxwell, Lori Wood and Mary Knowlton have experienced many good times together.
But they’ve seen their share of bad times, too.
When Wood lost her 28-year-old daughter Ashley Wood to heroin addiction in 2012, Maxwell and Knowlton were there to stand by Wood’s side.
And now, the three stand together to face head-on what Wood calls “Midland’s dirty little secret” — addiction.
“Addiction is the biggest secret in Midland,” Wood said. “It’s a dirty little secret. This disease does not discriminate. Secret or not, it’s here and it’s not going anywhere.”
After each experienced the effects of addiction on families and friends, Maxwell, Wood and Knowlton have embarked on a new chapter together: co-founders of the nonprofit organization called For a Brighter Tomorrow. Their mission? Help families and those faced with the disease of addiction by assisting with the financial costs associated with recovery and remaining clean.
“Both of my daughters have faced the disease of addiction and I lost a daughter because of it,” said Lori Wood, president of For a Brighter Tomorrow. “There are so many costs associated with addiction: pay for counseling, pay for the doctors, pay court fees. As a parent, you do anything you can do to eliminate stress from them (children) in recovery. Knowing the costs involved with this, I thought, ‘Why isn’t there an organization helping with this?’ And if there is an organization already helping, there are usually so many restrictions. Every child deserves to get the help they need. Every parent deserves to have hope. For a Brighter Tomorrow exists to help.”
AN IDEA IS BORN
For a Brighter Tomorrow became an official nonprofit organization in the spring, but the idea for the initiative began in the fall of 2013 with a conversation at the home of Knowlton, vice president of the organization. Knowlton, Maxwell and Wood chatted with Knowlton’s friend who started her own nonprofit. From that conversation, Wood felt inspired to create a nonprofit to help families and individuals facing addictions and the challenges that accompany remaining clean.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t we do this?’ Wood said. “And they (Maxwell and Knowlton) said, ‘We can.’ I said, ‘I can’t do this alone,’ and they said, ‘We’re in’.”
As their new, shared dream began to take shape, the three friends found their roles quickly.
“To Lori, it’s a passion and dream,” said Maxwell, the nonprofit’s secretary and treasurer. “Mary and I are here as Lori’s right and left arm. We’re all different pieces. I’m the voice of reason. Lori has the passion and dream, and Mary is the compassion. None of us could do what we do without the other.”
Once they decided to start the nonprofit, the friends set their sights on raising funds.
“We knew if were going to be a 501c3, we needed to make money,” said Knowlton.
To generate start-up funds, they started “treasure-hunting,” for glassware to create glass totems, birdbaths and candle holders to sell. After raising over $300 at a bazaar hosted at Homer United Methodist Church in Midland, the friends knew they found a lucrative way to raise money to form a nonprofit. They continue to collect and create glassware items to raise funds, along with For a Brighter Tomorrow bracelets.
“I thought, ‘OK God, I hear you’,” Wood said after the glassware sales proved successful. “I pray the whole time and God keeps opening doors.”
ON A MISSION
For a Brighter Tomorrow exists to ease the financial costs and barriers those with the disease of addiction often face.
“This is passion-driven,” Wood said. “It’s coming to the realization that addiction is a disease. Most people have a hard time accepting that. People come out (of jail or prison) clean, but all they do is come out. A lot of them go right back in because it’s a cycle of hopelessness. They will get court-ordered drug testing, but if they don’t have the funds to get the testing done, a lot of them will think, ‘Well, I won’t go get tested,’ and they will use.”
For a Brighter Tomorrow intends to come alongside people faced with drug and alcohol addictions so they can access the necessary resources to remain clean.
“We don’t give money to people directly,” Maxwell said. “We come alongside them to help them with what they need, whether that’s help with clothing, gas, court fees … any way we can help without directly giving money.”
People can come to For a Brighter Tomorrow’s office, 1543 Washington St. in Midland, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to fill out an application and describe their needs, Wood said.
“We also plan on having parent/family meetings because they need the help, too,” Maxwell said. “They need to share their stories and listen to some hard truths.”
The meetings will take place every second and fourth Tuesday of the month from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
“Everything changes when you see someone you love face the disease of addiction,” Wood said.
FINDING A PLACE TO LAND
The office of For a Brighter Tomorrow opened in June 2015 and is lined with glassware. Comfy couches sit in corners and encouraging signs about God and faith hang on the walls.
A large decal with the organization’s logo — a red cardinal flying over a bright sunset — is on the front of the entrance door glass. The flying cardinal has significant meaning, Wood said.
“The police came to tell me just before midnight about (my daughter) Ashley,” Wood said. “When it became daylight, there was a red cardinal that flew across my backyard, just back and forth, back and forth, all day. My neighbor mentioned to me, ‘What is up with that bird?’ And I knew it was Ashley. Ashley was letting me know she was free. So that’s why our logo has a cardinal in flight. I wanted the cardinal to be flying.”
And what inspired the name For a Brighter Tomorrow?
Wood said she thought of the organization’s name because they “want to help people so their tomorrow will be better than today.”
Maxwell, Knowlton and Wood each believe there are many misconceptions about the disease of addiction.
“If it were that easy to just quit, people would,” Wood said. “But the disease is ugly. People see the lying, cheating, stealing, but they don’t understand it’s a disease. The biggest misconception is that somebody caused the addiction. ‘They were raised badly’ or ‘it must have been the parents.’ It doesn’t matter where you come from or your background. The disease of addiction does not discriminate.”
Maxwell, who also works as the office manager at Messiah Lutheran Church, 1550 S. Poseyville Road in Midland, said working at the church drives her passion even more.
“I see (addiction) even more; it’s growing,” Maxwell said. “I’ve changed and learned a lot. It’s changed me. I used to be one of those people that was like, ‘Change your ways.’ I am proud when I walk into our office, like, ‘We did it’.”
Maxwell, Knowlton and Wood said they have future goals for their nonprofit, including sober housing and other For a Brighter Tomorrow office locations throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.
For now, the friends are focused on continuing to raise money for their Midland office to cover administrative costs to keep For a Brighter Tomorrow running smoothly.
Wearing red, orange and yellow bracelets boasting the words For a Brighter Tomorrow, the friends each praise God and their faith for the creation of the organization.
“It feels really rewarding because I have a passion and now I have a place to use that passion,” Knowlton said. “It’s in my heart to help.”
And when asked how they feel about the opportunity to help others through For a Brighter Tomorrow, the three friends each used the same word: