Pictured: Co Founders
Donna Fenchel & Carla Sweeney
Three organizations came together in 2019 to help fill the void of housing for women survivors of sex trafficking. Connections 2 Hope, along with Awakenings House and Grace Ministry of Helping Hands, formed The Villages of Hope and the dream began to become a reality. Awakenings House has a focus on helping women overcome addiction with housing through sober living while Grace Ministries is often the first contact a woman from the street has with our organization. Grace Ministries reaches out directly to women incarcerated or living on the street.
In 2019, we ran a pilot program with a partnership with Thistle Farms from Nashville TN, which offers a sisterhood program to organizations with a common mission and vision. Through this partnership, we were able to overcome hurdles like operations manuals, handbooks, and program guidelines, as well as training for our staff and an ongoing support team. During our pilot, we formed additional partnerships with other organizations for counseling and therapy.
In May of 2021, we purchased a small piece of land where we are building tiny homes for The Villages of Hope. Our development will have 14 two bedroom tiny homes that will be dedicated for women who are seeking a new life. We have been renovating the home on the property to be used as a community center, where we will hold morning devotions, group therapy, AA meetings, and serve meals. As we prepare to reopen after our Covid shutdown, we are once again reaching out to partners to provide the best and most comprehensive care to women who are seeking a new life and a safe place to lay their heads. Our vision is to provide a tiny home community, where a woman will be surrounded by a community of care and loved unconditionally while they embark on their courageous journey of healing.
Meet The Team
Donna Fenchel : Co-Founder & Director of Strategy & Housing Development
Hi, my name is Donna, I’ve lived in the Jax area since 1984. I am married with 3 grown children and 3 step children and 3 grandchildren. 3 seems to be a good number for me. For fun, I like to go to the beach and also hike in the mountains, I once hiked The Enchantments trail in the Cascades, 22 miles and 11,000 feet of elevation. I am one of the founders of the VOH. My heart breaks for women who are in the cycle of addiction, sexual exploitation and trafficking. I want to be the hand of Jesus reaching through the waves to lift them up from the dark waters that are threatening to drown them. It all starts with a safe place to lay their head. That is why Villages of Hope.
Carla Sweeney: Co-Founder & Director of Operations & Staff
My name is Carla Sweeney. I have lived in Jacksonville, Fl. for most of my life. Since 2016 I have been a director of a women's sober living house and during this time I've met survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation during their stay with us. This has blossomed my awareness and has opened my heart to further help women who are in need of a safe refuge and unconditional love. In my spare time I love to read, paint and spend time with my grandchildren.
Brittany Wilkes: Director of Administration
My name is Brittany Wilkes. I have lived in N.E. Florida since 2005. I am a mother of 2 daughters and in my free time I love reading and going to the beach. Villages of Hope means a lot to me because I was once living in darkness and God put some amazing ladies in my life who held my hand and walked beside me into a life full of light and love. Today I want to be that for other women.
Silvia Almond: Director of Residential Services
Hi my name is Silvia. I lived in Jacksonville since 2006. My reason why to spend my time at the Villages of Hope is because I believe in the vision on helping many women, one at the time to restore their life out of sexual exploitation, addiction, trauma as they come out also of the abuse of human trafficking. I enjoyed traveling, reading and having a little adventure spirit.
Shanley Smith: Director of Community Outreach
My name is Shanley Smith. I am a single mother of four children and I live in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl. I’ve lived in Jacksonville since the age of two, when my father was transferred from Dallas, Tx. due to his job with the railroad. I love spending time with my kids, as they are my world. When I’m not with my children, I enjoy snowboarding, wakeboarding, tennis, working out and being with friends. I love staying busy, but I also thrive off my alone time, reading and being with the Lord.
I donate my time to The Villages of Hope because I believe in the overall mission and heart behind this organization. The moment I discovered The Villages of Hope and their dedication to provide housing to women of sex trafficking, addiction and sexual exploitation, I felt an immediate need to be involved.
Andrea McHugh: Safe House Coordinator
My name is Andrea McHugh. Some years ago I stepped out of the darkness, and into the light. Through love, hope, and healing I now live a redeemed life. It is my passion to serve God, and the women in our community. Through The Villages of Hope, I am able to do that with great love and support. I know in my heart I was lead to the Villages of Hope to serve women. It is such an honor and privilege to work in the capacity of Outreach and Safe House Coordinator.