When you meet Nicci Stultz, you think “this is a girl who’s got it together.”
“I’m majoring in psychology and Christian studies and I’m going to graduate school for social work,” she says with pride.
She’s always been smart and beautiful, but life hasn’t always been good. “I know exactly how it feels to be abused and hurting and alone.” Her mother suffered from a crippling illness, her father was a drunk. “There would be times I would come home and have my hand on the door handle and not want to go in, for fear of what was behind the door.”
By the time Nicci was a teenager, she couldn’t go home. “Our perspective was completely skewed,” she explains, “and when we were taken out of the home – my twin sister and I – my mother was put in a nursing home. She was 42. It was hard on all of us. I’m going to start to cry… she meant a lot to me.”
Peace is what Nicci and her sister needed. They found it through Quakerdale. “We were used to anger – that’s how we answered every situation, so having that kind of love for every child in the Promise Home – it’s what it took to break the past we had.”
Donna Lawler is the Director of Development. She says Quakerdale is life-changing for many kids and families. It may be through horse therapy or education programs or just a safe place to live. As state funding has decreased in recent years, Lawler says the need has not. “The statistics remain the same in terms of families that are having difficulties… whether it’s poverty, or abuse or single parents trying to do it all.”
Executive Director Robert Talbot calls Quakerdale’s approach a new way of helping Iowans. “As we move forward we know that if we want to be creative and operative with kids and make a difference, we need to do some different things, so yeah – privately funded services and we’re doing them all over the state, actually.” In 2010, Quakerdale started “The Promise Academy”. It’s privately funded and works to prevent problems and help families before they’re in crisis.
“It would really be nice to never have to say ‘no’ to any family who calls and needs help,” says Lawler, “and we’re really kind of at that point now.”
Nicci says she doesn’t know where she’d be without Quakerdale and its programs. “If you come from a situation like I did and you don’t find any higher purpose, all you’re doing to do is fall into the exact same way because that’s the only way you know how to do it and I didn’t want a repeat of a family like that.”