From Drug-Addicted Prostitute to Dream Weaver
Shaaron Funderburk knows what it feels like to regain consciousness in a daze after taking drugs. She knows what it feels like to be in a jail cell and see a loved one pleading with her to change.
“After drinking and drugging for years, I’d become a derelict,” she says. “I didn’t know what it was like to be normal.”
She’s turned her life around after having been a homeless, drug-addicted prostitute. And now she’s helping other women do the same.
After beating addiction and getting herself off the streets in 1994, Funderburk realized there were not many support options in Gaston County, North Carolina, for women like her with no children. Shelters filled up quickly and the street tempted many recovering addicts.
Funderburk began her community service story by driving through local neighborhoods, distributing free condoms to prostitutes. Then she offered them meals.
“I would tell the girls, `I know what it’s like to be out here,’” Funderburk says. “So whenever you want to come off the street, you let me know.”
She opened up her home and started Off the Streets, offering a transitional counseling and recovery program and addressing the combined issues of sexual abuse, substance abuse and alcohol addiction.
Up to six residents in Funderburk’s group home participate in daily education and support groups that assist in their recovery and empowerment process, addressing topics such as life skills, health and wellbeing, relationships and self-esteem. And the volunteer team that leads Off the Streets programs is made up primarily of women who have been through Funderburk’s tough-love programs.
Over the past 12 years, Funderburk has helped more than 750 women develop marketable skills, reunite with family and become productive citizens. Her Off the Streets program boasts an 88 percent success rate with helping women recover. Graduates of Funderburk’s program have secured jobs, started businesses or returned to previous careers and have renewed parental rights.
In addition to the day-to-day operations of the shelter, Funderburk supports the community and her residents by advocating for residents, becoming a certified foster parent, working suicide hotlines and supporting women through the court system.
“I want to bring the dreams back alive, I want to bring the hope back alive,” Funderburk says. “I motivate women easily because I have been there.”
Funderburk was recognized by L'Oréal Paris and Points of Light as a 2014 Woman of Worth for her extraordinary volunteer work. Nominate an inspiring woman who is creating change in her community to be one of this year's Women of Worth at www.womenofworth.com.