Daily Reporter staff writer

REENFIELD — It was another funeral in a line of too many funerals.

Gary Wright officiated it. Linda Ostewig went to it.

Each came away with a desire to change things.

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Advocates of a house for women recovering from addiction are encouraged by work going on at 527 E. Main St. They intend for the building to be a place for women emerging from recovery programs to safely transition back to productive lives.

Ostewig has long had a desire to create such a safe haven in Greenfield, and Wright supports her efforts to make it a reality.

A funeral they attended last year, marking yet another young life cut short by addiction, helped galvanize that effort.

“I went to that funeral, and I was so angry,” Ostewig said. “I was like, ‘How long are we going to sit silently and watch people die?’”

Wright and Ostewig have worked with people battling addiction through the Celebrate Recovery ministry, which meets at Brandywine Community Church. Wright, whose full-time job is running a missions agency, has been a pastoral presence at Celebrate Recovery. He speaks occasionally at the Friday night meetings and often prays with people there.

Ostewig has led a women’s small group there in the past and is now director of The Landing, which offers support to young people struggling with addiction and other problems.

“The Lord births your passion out of your pain,” she said.

For Ostewig, the passion to help those in recovery developed while watching her daughter, Kara Ostewig, struggle with addiction for about 10 years. She once worried one of those funerals would be for her own daughter; but today, Kara Ostewig is sober and healthy. She even named the facility: “Talitha Koum.”

It’s based on a story in the Bible in which Jesus takes the hand of a girl who is dead, saying, “Little girl, rise up!” — or “Talitha koum!” in Hebrew.

Kara Ostewig, a musician, said the story parallels her own life.

About two years ago, she showed up drunk at Wright’s home and office south of Charlottesville and announced she was going to commit suicide. Wright called Linda Ostewig, and eventually, a small circle of family members and friends attended to the young woman struggling with addiction.

“They prayed over me, and — boom! — I was sober,” she said. “I was back alive.”

While some experience victories in moving past their addictions, others continue to struggle or have moments of relapse.

For several months, Wright said, “it just seemed like we lost somebody every week. That really drove us to say we need to do something.”

During that stretch, Linda Ostewig shared her frustration about the issue on Facebook. A friend contacted her privately about providing a building at no charge to Friends of Recovery, the nonprofit organization Wright and Ostewig formed.

The donor, who wishes to remain private, also is covering the cost of remodeling. Friends of Recovery ultimately will pay rent — “very reasonable rent,” Linda Ostewig added — with hopes of buying the building in two years.

Meanwhile, the group is working to raise $10,000 through an upcoming auction and other efforts. That money will go toward rent, furniture, kitchenware and other furnishings for the house.

The structure has no kitchen now, but crews will demolish some walls inside and refashion the space to include a kitchen, an office and a common area, with bedrooms upstairs. The home could hold up to 12 women, Ostewig said.

Residents will be expected to hold jobs and pay rent.

“This is just renters next door who have gotten clean,” Wright said. “(It’s) a step back to the community with accountability, safety and structure.”

Wright said those coming out of detox or work release often need a fresh start in terms of living quarters because their former environment can tempt them to fall back into old habits.

Kara Ostewig said establishing structure is an important issue beyond an addiction itself. As she struggled with addiction and her mom looked for rehab options, she was in her late teens and 20s and “had zero idea how to live life.”

Amy Ikerd, a prevention specialist with the Hancock County Probation Department, said the problem is cyclical. Some people who’ve come through her office are homeless, “couch surfing” at the homes of family members or friends. Or they’re headed home to family members mired in their own addictions.

“Their environment is just not structured or healthy,” she said. “It’s difficult to maintain sobriety when you’re living in the same environment.”

Ikerd also has referred people to transitional facilities in Indianapolis, but people who have local ties often don’t want to leave.

Ikerd said she’s excited about the possibility of bringing a women’s sober house to Greenfield but also recognizes potential challenges, such as raising and maintaining funding or not having enough space to meet the demand.

Linda Ostewig is eager to meet the needs of local residents who have expressed interest. She said she gets a couple of calls or text messages a week asking when the house will be ready. She’s hoping for summer or possibly fall for Talitha Koum — a beautiful name, she said, one that made her cry when she first heard it.

“We have so many women, and he’s wanting to say, ‘Little girl, rise up.’”

Auction to raise funds

The Talitha Koum women’s house will be one of several organizations to benefit from an old-fashioned country auction set for 6 p.m. April 30 at the Hancock County 4-H Fairgrounds.

The proceeds will be divided equally among the recovery effort, World Renewal International and Love INC. Another Addison Auction will provide the auctioneer services.

Organizers are collecting new, slightly used, collectible or antique items (no clothes) for the auction. All donated items are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

If you have items to donate, call Love INC at 317-468-6300.

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Anne Smith is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at asmith@greenfieldreporter.com