Restoring Women Outreach in search of property to expand services

Graduates and staff members Judy West, Betty Dunn and Director Summer Blalock Burden (Photo from RWO Facebook)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Restoring Women Outreach is a 12-step residential sober living program that currently houses 26 residents that have struggled with addiction. The program was established in 2011 to provide direction to the women whose lives have been damaged by substance abuse disorders. It has five houses in use that were donated by the late Dorothy Frady. The ladies come to the program in a variety of different ways, some through the court system and others brought by family members.

They are required to participate in various classes in order to graduate the program. The women must attain employment and are responsible for keeping all of their fines, drug tests, probation fees, child support and program fees paid. Recovery coaches who are in long term recovery themselves help the group to budget their money and pay their bills.

Director Summer Burden says that it is important for the women to stay living with their peers during their recovery, “A lot of the women that come to us don’t have a safe and nurturing environment to get sober in. Recovery from substance use disorder is so much more than just attending daily meetings. It’s about how we deal with life outside of those meetings and taking what we learn in the meetings and applying it to our daily lives. The ladies all living and learning together lets them know they are not alone.”

As a part of the program, the group also needs to attend parenting and anger management classes. Burden said, “Although most of our ladies have kids or grown kids and grandkids, we do get some that haven’t had kids yet and the parenting classes are still great to attend because they don’t just look at how you’ve been parenting your kids but also how your parents parented you, and that’s so helpful while you’re working on yourself and an important part of your healing. As far as the anger management…I’ve never met anyone who couldn’t benefit from some anger management.”

In order to graduate, the women need to stay at one of the houses for a minimum of 12 months, complete all of their classes, stay up to date on their fees, have a 12-step sponsor that they have gone through all of the steps with and completed a home plan with Director Burden.

The first 30 days after arrival is crucial to client recovery. Members don’t have any contact with their friends or family in the first 30 days but after that, they are allowed limited contact.  Burden said, “Recovery is a process, and so is getting them back into their daily lives with friends and family. We do, however, love for their families to be a part of their recovery since addiction is a family disease.”

Because of the rate of overdoses rising over the last couple of years, Burden does not put any of the women on a waitlist. She stated, “I reach out to other places that I’m familiar with and try my best to place them somewhere else. We have five homes and at times, I could fill five more. I feel putting people on a waitlist is like putting them on a list to die. I don’t like waitlists. I would rather just place them in another good program.”

The outreach program is currently in need of more housing for clients. The program is seeing more and more women who need assistance. Burden said that with the usage of heroin and fentanyl increasing, she believes addicts are hitting bottom quicker than usual. She and the recovery coaches hate to turn them away, but cannot provide adequate care without more housing. They are now in search of one-five acres of land in Cullman County to build on or that already has a home on it to expand their services.

The funds for the program mainly come from the women involved who pay a program fee that is based on their income. “We also have some amazing people in our community that will donate money and there are some women’s groups and church groups that are so loyal to us every year. We couldn’t continue to help these ladies without the love and support from our community,” shared Burden.

Anyone who wishes to donate to Restoring Women Outreach’s cause can do so at

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