Until April 1997 Rhonda Clemons enjoyed the perfect life in Warner, Oklahoma. Then one day her husband, Michael, came home with tragic news. During a dental exam his dentist had discovered a small sore that turned out to be cancer.
Yet amid the chaos and pain, Rhonda and Michael received incredible news—Rhonda was pregnant again with the couple’s fourth child. Despite aggressive treatments and Michael’s own strength, he died a mere eleven months later. Less than three weeks after his death, Rhonda delivered their youngest son.
Suddenly Rhonda was a single mother with four children to care for, nurture and feed. So, exhausted and overwhelmed, she booked a weekend alone at a cabin in the woods to think about what she would do with the rest of her life.
It was in that cabin that an idea came to her that would change not only her own life, but also the lives of countless other single mothers facing hardship. It was Zoë Institute, a faith-based, long-term support agency for single women and their kids.
Today, Zoë Institute offers educational programs through support groups to help women kick old negative relationship patterns with abusive spouses and boyfriends and choose healthy relationships. Trained volunteers give classes in parenting, boundary setting and life skills. Zoë also gives women one-on-one mentoring opportunities with positive role models. And finally, Zoë Institute operates the “Hands of Grace” warehouse, which distributes diapers, clothing, shoes, toys, furniture, appliances and hygiene products to struggling families in the area.
Under Rhonda’s leadership, Zoë’s success stories abound. Zoë Institute once reached out to a local homeless family living under a bridge. They now have a house to call their own.
Her volunteers can attest to the fact that Rhonda is a true motivator. Often out of the house by 6:30 a.m. and back again after 9:00 p.m., she’s a whirlwind of activity and nerve. Still, Rhonda remains humble, relying on her staff, volunteers, children and her faith to keep herself grounded. She says all these elements came together to give her community the Zoë Institute.
To find out more about how you can help Rhonda Clemons and Zoë Institute, go to the Get Involved/Donate section.