Lifespring Ministries

September 2019 View more

A young Lifespring Ministries resident, Bella, with volunteer mentor Janet Hershey

Janet Hershey knows what it’s like to be a single, teenage mom struggling with addiction. As a mother of two by the age of 18, she was fortunate enough to have the support of her family. Now she pays it forward by mentoring other women suffering from addiction, abuse, and financial difficulties as a volunteer through Lifespring Ministries.

Located in Aurora, Lifespring is a division of Wayside Cross Ministries that provides long-term transitional living programs for homeless women. As a Christ-centered recovery program, Lifespring focuses on healing the whole person through Bible studies and biblical counseling, as well as classes in parenting, finances, cooking, nutrition, GED tutoring, computer skills, and résumé writing. 

Women live in the facility from six months to a year in adherence to strict rules designed to empower them to turn their lives around. “The program is very structured,” Hershey says. “It helps women to really look at their personal issues, figure out what brought them here, and what they need to do in order to break the cycle.”

Housing is available both to individual women and those with children. Residents share cooking and housekeeping responsibilities as they learn to work together and live in a cooperative environment. Hershey points out that working through issues together is a big part of the program. “When you are at the worst point of your life, and you end up at a place with other women who are at the worst point in their lives, it can be very challenging. Plus many [residents] are moms with very different parenting styles and abilities. They really have to be committed to the program in order to succeed.” If someone doesn’t follow the rules, they are asked to leave to make room for someone else. The need is so great that Lifespring turns away 24 families (about 40 to 50 children) and 14 women without children every month, simply due to a lack of space.

Once residents graduats from the program they are able to receive 12 to 18 months of additional support, including living in one of Lifespring’s apartments. Regardless of where they live, Lifespring helps them furnish and set up their new homes with items donated to the Wayside Cross thrift shops. At this point in the program, the women have jobs, with their children in a safe environment. They have built up a support network and are on their way to self-sufficiency. “Although not everyone is a success story, many women I’ve worked with have graduated from the program, have their own apartments, and are doing really well,” Hershey says. Committed to their success, she always encourages them to reach out to her whenever they feel the need.

Hershey began volunteering at Lifespring nine years ago. After finding her faith in her mid-’30s, she felt a strong calling to help others. One day she noticed a childhood friend on social media, who had been addicted to heroin, was living at Lifespring. Surprised she had never heard of the local nonprofit before, Hershey immediately volunteered as a mentor. 

“When I first meet women there, they can’t imagine that I’ve faced similar struggles. I share my story with them and let them know I’ve been there. I’ve been addicted. I got pregnant in my teens. I’ve been emotionally and physically abused. But now I’m a successful businessperson. If I can do it, so can they,” she says. “Lifespring truly cares about the people who stay there. I know God wants me there to help these women. Their pain is so much greater than mine.” 

Lifespring Ministry’s annual benefit dinner will be held on September 19 at Danada House in Wheaton. To volunteer, purchase tickets, or learn more, visit

Photo courtesy Janet Hershey