Above are the women who started the organization.
By Jessica Brodie
ORANGEBURG—Decades ago, Dr. Minnie Anderson shouldered a dark burden—since her wedding day, she had been a victim of domestic abuse.
While today a retired United Methodist local pastor, back then she was a military wife with three young children and terrified to leave. Every day was a nightmare.
Anderson’s neighbor also carried the same burden. But one day, when the neighbor’s abusive husband discovered their teenaged daughter was pregnant and began to savagely beat the girl, the neighbor had enough. She found his handgun and killed her abusive husband—then went to jail.
While the charges were eventually dismissed, this was the 1970s, and Anderson’s neighbor was incarcerated for a while as the legal process unfolded. Anderson stayed in contact with her neighbor, praying for her and trying to support her.
“She’d call and ask, ‘Minnie, why didn’t I leave?’” Anderson recalled. “I didn’t know what to say; I was speechless. What do you say? It haunted me for years. I thought, ‘What could I have done?’”
Years passed, and Anderson gained the courage to leave her own abuser, eventually making her way to South Carolina. She married the love of her life, Spencer, and went on to pursue a doctorate.
But over the years, the experience of her neighbor and countless women like her continued to stay with Anderson. She thought about all the women incarcerated because of rotten, abusive, desperate circumstances, women forced to turn to illegal means to live, such as sex trafficking or drug smuggling. A deep, God-inspired desire to help these women began to flood Anderson’s soul until it became impossible to ignore. Her vision—to help women turn their lives around after jail or prison and learn how to live in a healthy, godly, righteous way. She envisioned a transitional home, a place where these women could learn, grow and thrive with loving, Christian support.
Anderson’s husband was incredibly supportive. One day, he turned to her.
“Why don’t you do it?”
They prayed for guidance. Then one day, in 2020, Anderson awoke and heard God saying: “Paths to Wholeness.”
Immediately, she called four other United Methodist women—her sister, Delores Rock, and others she knew had a heart for this vision: Shirley Hugee, Sadie Jarvis and retired UMC pastor the Rev. Barbara Reid.
They prayed and very quickly developed their plan, filing paperwork to launch a 501(c)(3) nonprofit ministry called Paths to Wholeness.
God’s timing was fast. Just months later, in January 2021, they secured funds, found a house to purchase and began renovating it. They started meeting with Department of Corrections and other state, county and local officials, planning and cementing partnerships and ultimately laying the full groundwork for the ministry.
The house was ready by June 2022, and it officially opened Sept. 19, 2022—the very same day Anderson’s beloved husband, Spencer, passed away.
Despite her grief, they pressed on, keeping the focus of helping women rehabilitate and reunify back into society after incarceration.
Today, Paths to Wholeness has been operational for more than a year. They have a small two-bedroom house that can accommodate four women called Bea’s House, after Anderson’s mother who often helped abused women. Each bedroom sleeps two, with closets, shelving and bathroom space. Anderson spends most days there along with another worker, and three other women come in the evenings
Referrals come from the Department of Corrections as well as from local and county detention centers across South Carolina. The women who come to Bea’s House come directly from prison or jail. They have strict guidelines—no sex offenders, and no one with an active drug problem.
“She needs to be someone who really wants to change,” Anderson explained.
Paths to Wholeness works hands-on with these women, helping them learn needed social, emotional, mental, and intellectual skills so they can transition into society.
For example, they offer mentoring and counseling, and volunteers pray with them often. A local bank, Truist, offers a course in financial literacy for the women, and they work to get the women jobs or education, as well as health care and coverage for their prescriptions.
“They come to us with diabetes, hypertension and no medication,” Anderson said. “They come to us with nothing.”
Churches and individuals supply clothing for the women, as well as other needs. They also try to get the women involved in giving back through volunteering in the community. They frequently do group activities, such as attending a live play or musical, cultural opportunities some have never had the opportunity to enjoy.
“When the women come to us they’re broken,” Anderson said. “The stories that we hear—it’s unimaginable.”
Many of the women have been victims of domestic violence, which is Anderson’s doctoral focus. Others were entrenched in sex trafficking. One woman was 13 years old when her boyfriend put her out on the streets to make money. Change for these women can be extraordinarily difficult and take a long time.
Still, Anderson and others with Paths to Wholeness are determined to help.
“Our goal is to help as many as we can,” she said. “Changing is hard. Our prayer is that we have planted seeds that impact them, and we have seen lives change. We might not see the fruit today, but we’ve planted it.”
The women stay until they are ready to go, which is typically when they have achieved the goals they identified at the start of their time at Bea’s House. For example, one woman they helped had three goals: not go back into drugs and prostitution, get a job and get her son back. The woman was able to accomplish the first two goals before moving back to her home state, where she is actively fulfilling her probation requirements so she can regain custody of her child.
“We know that God has placed us here for a change,” Anderson said.
Paths to Wholeness is funded primarily by individual donations. They received a substantial legislative grant thanks to the efforts of Sen. Katrina Shealy when they first launched, which handled the renovation costs. Now, donations and other support helps them stay operational. The United Women in Faith of Trinity UMC, Orangeburg, have committed to an annual donation, and they hope others will, too.
In the future, Anderson said they are hoping to build another facility, a house that can accommodate not only more women but also their children.
Want to help?
Paths to Wholeness is hosting a brunch March 2 at 10 a.m. at Orangeburg Country Club to raise awareness and funding. For more on the brunch, or to learn how to help Paths to Wholeness, visit https://pathstowholeness.org, email [email protected], call 803-387-8226 or write Paths to Wholeness, P.O. Box 1402, Orangeburg, SC 29116.