Judith Lajoie is a formerly battered woman who had a vision of what a successful transitional home for women and children would consist of. In August 1991, The Haven of Grace Ministries became incorporated and Judith started planning to open a home for women and children overcoming addictions and abuse. She had decided that the Haven would not take state or federal money. It was to be funded entirely by donations from foundations, church and civic groups and private individuals.
Through the hard work and planning of Judith and several volunteers, the Haven opened its doors in 1993 in Woonsocket, RI. It has three components: residential living, community outreach and a violence prevention program.
The residential component is a two-year program taking in women and their children from drug rehabs and prisons, serving as a battered women's short term shelter. Group counseling is offered to help the women acquire skills such as money management, driver's education and job training. Each woman is required to enroll in an educational or job training program. Of the 53 residents that the Haven has housed since 1993, 30 have entered college. The women are also required to volunteer at the Haven after six months of residency. Many have additionally volunteered at local soup kitchens, nursing homes and schools.
The community outreach portion of the program also consists of individual and group counseling, a 12-step spiritual group and casework services. It provides outreach to families with donations of food, clothing and household items on a weekly basis. At Christmas, they provide gifts and clothing to families in the Greater Woonsocket area.
The Haven offers a violence and substance abuse prevention program to elementary, junior high and senior high schools in Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. The services include parent workshops, teacher trainings, creation of school resource centers and a Students Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.) curriculum which is offered to the students. The six students sessions are designed to educate students on the different forms of abuse and the prevention skills necessary to avoid abusive behaviors and relationships. They also discuss the role of substances in relationships and its connection to abuse, self-esteem and decision making. The students are taught assertive techniques in dealing with peer pressure and strong emotions such as jealousy and anger.
Judith now serves as the executive director of The Haven, coordinating volunteers and client services. She provides services such as teaching Bible Study and running support groups. She is responsible for the business aspects of the program which she started. Judith has also published a children's book on prejudice called, The Leopard and the Panther: What's the Difference? It is used in elementary schools to teach children about prejudice.
The program that she dreamed and created has received the Make a Difference Day award for the past two years.