Nineteen-year-old McKaylynn Sporcich awoke last Easter from a medically-induced coma, recovering after she took tainted drugs while trying to purchase heroin on the streets.
A year later, she said she feels she's had a second chance at life: She just got a job at Chick-fil-A and is making plans to go to college. Instead of "bouncing from couch-to-couch," she's found a safe place to live at Gospel Homes for Women, a local group of Christian sober living residences.
The organization's founder, Marilyn Vyzourek, said Sporcich's transformation and others like it are what motivates her.
"I can think of so many girls that have put their lives back together," said Vyzourek, who earned the American Red Cross of Southeastern Colorado's Hometown Hero award in community service. "It's probably the greatest thing you can see on Earth - on this side of heaven."
Vyzourek, an ordained minister, has spent much of the past two decades helping women who were homeless or recently released from jail get back on their feet, address drug and alcohol addiction, reunite with their families, and form a relationship with God. She estimates she's served 1,500 women through various programs during that time.
"I didn't even know her. She let me come into the home and start my life over again," Sporcich said. "She's an amazing lady and she's helped me through a lot. I'm very grateful for her."
In 2002, seven years after Vyzourek and her husband founded Springs Rescue Mission, she started her first sober living home, Liza's Place, which was named after a troubled woman she'd been ministering who was murdered. She later opened Hope Home, a special residence for people struggling with mental health problems and substance abuse disorders.
Her organization, formally known as Gospel Shelters for Women, made headlines in 2011 when conservative talk show host Glenn Beck donated $55,000 to her program to make up for a federal grant she lost when she refused to stop requiring Bible studies.
The nonprofit's Board of Directors took over both homes in 2012 when Vyzourek's husband was diagnosed with cancer, and the homes closed the following year due to lack of funding, Vyzourek said.
After her husband died, she felt compelled to launch another similar organization in late 2014 because there were no other Christian sober living homes in the area. She opened one house on Lawrence Avenue on the city's east side, and another on Morley Circle in southeast Colorado Springs early the next year. Between both locations, she now houses 16 women at a time.
Participants, who pay a $450 monthly program fee, are required to hold a job or be looking for one, participate in Bible studies twice a week and daily devotions and be in by curfew. The organization also offers one-on-one mentoring and transportation to and from Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Many who participate in the program are referred to Vyzourek by the local jail. Most suffer from addiction, a history of sexual abuse or both, Vyzourek said.
She said the Bible's message brings the women she serves hope and helps them forgive themselves and others who lead them astray.
"It's hard for someone to stay sober when they have so much pain inside. So they want to kill the pain with the drugs or the alcohol," she said. "They have a hole in their heart that only Jesus can fill."
Anyone caught drunk or high has the option to go to a local detox facility to sober up, or they are kicked out for a month. If they bring drugs or alcohol into the home, they cannot come back, Vyzourek said.
She pegs the program's success rate at about 60 percent.
"There's a fine line between grace and enabling," she said.
Funding remains a struggle, Vyzourek said. Gospel Homes for Women, which had an operational budget of about $74,000 last year, is financed entirely by private donations.
To donate, visit gospelhomesforwomen.org.
The American Red Cross Hometown Heroes awards recognize outstanding humanitarian contributions by southeastern Colorado residents, companies and organizations. Recipients will be honored at a fundraising banquet Thursday at The Broadmoor. Visit redcross.org/local/colorado