Restoring Women Outreach enjoys success despite 2020 challenges

Restoring Women Outreach Board President Nancy Moore (left) and Restoring Women Outreach Director Summer Burden (right) celebrate Cullman’s proclamation of September 2020 as Recovery Awareness Month in the city. (Photo courtesy of Summer Burden)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman-based Restoring Women Outreach, Inc., defined by director Summer Burden as “a 12-step-based sober living program for women serving Cullman and its surrounding areas since 2011,” faced many challenges in 2020, especially in its group homes where program participants share common spaces.

Burden told The Tribune, “Since the COVID-19 outbreak, we have followed closely the Safer at Home Order as issued and amended recently by Governor Kay Ivey. We have also looked to the guidelines issued by the CDC for group homes for guidance on keeping our residents as safe as possible during the pandemic. We have, thankfully, managed to keep our resident infections to a minimum.  We were also able to isolate the few who have been infected early enough to prevent outbreaks of infection within the residents of our program.  

“Our success has come as a result of the sacrifice of our residents, staff, and at the loss of our community volunteers. Our residents’ in-person interaction with their families was one of the biggest sacrifices they made to stay safe and help keep their loved ones healthy as well.”

An unexpectedly positive effect of COVID

“Another sacrifice our residents made in their recovery program was in the loss of in-person meetings and classes,” said Burden. “Peer support is imperative in early recovery; therefore, we were forced to find alternative solutions such as Zoom meetings and other forms of video conferencing as ways to keep our residents moving forward in their recovery process. 

“Through this type of communication, we did find an unexpected advantage, and that was a broader base of peer support. We were no longer bound by geographic locality. The ladies were able to interact with people facing their same struggles in recovery all over the state and even in other parts of the U.S., all thanks to the video conferencing technology that they have now become accustomed to using.”

Community support and determined participants keys to success

Burden shared, “We are a nonprofit organization that depends greatly on our local community support through volunteers and donations, both of which were hindered by the pandemic. We also must mention the tremendous support we have continued to receive from our Board of Directors, which is made up of local community leaders who have a heart for service and recovery. 

“There were many blessings throughout the challenges we faced during 2020. Our residents had many accomplishments because of their hard work and determination. Through advocacy this year, we saw the City of Cullman proclamation of September as Recovery Awareness Month. We are most proud of the community awareness achieved through advocacy. 

“We had 10 ladies who graduated our 12-month program, which was especially exceptional considering the hardships and difficulties faced throughout the year. We even had one young woman to attain her GED and earn a scholarship to attend Wallace State Community College. Another accomplishment that is also beneficial to our local community, is the amount of money our residents have earned working for local businesses and have then paid in fines and restitution to the court system. Through their hard work in this most challenging year, our residents have been living examples of what is right in a broken world. We are excited to see what challenges and opportunities 2021 will bring.”

For more about Restoring Women Outreach, visit or or call 256-727-6531.

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W.C. Mann