An Angel Among Us
Writer / Suzanne Huntzinger
“Oh, I believe there are angels among us….They wear so many faces, show up in the strangest places, to grace us with their mercy in our time of need.”
Lyrics from “Angels Among Us” by Alabama
Naragon, owner and founder of Haven Sanctuary for Women in Johnson County, is receiving one of three prestigious Angels of Grace Awards from the Sisters of St. Benedict at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Indianapolis. She and Haven Sanctuary will be honored with the Angel Raphael Award Saturday, September 24 for being a companion and provider to those in need of help and assistance.
Since 2007, Naragon and Haven have been helping single women by providing a range of needs including housing, financial help, employment, spiritual needs and more. Naragon was inspired to start the organization following her divorce. Having been a stay-at-home mom for her entire married life, she was faced with finding a new way to make a living and raise four children alone. Naragon was looking for a fresh start when a most unexpected angel in disguise reached out to her.
While she was married, Naragon and her ex-husband served on the board of an unwed mothers’ home in Johnson County. She says, “I would go to the home and take the girls to lunch and go shopping. If they wanted to make some money, I would bring them home with me to iron, clean or do whatever chores needed to be done.”
Years later, a girl who had been in the unwed mothers home called Naragon to share that the daughter she gave up for adoption years prior was going to meet her for the first time. She told Naragon she had been such a big part of her life at that time, staying by her side throughout the adoption process. It was then that Naragon knew she’d found her true calling. Naragon says, “When I hung up the phone, I felt the Lord speak to my heart, saying, ‘I gave you that passion. Now your own children are grown, and you have time to pursue that passion.’”
Immediately, Naragon spread her wings and got to work. As she was getting started, she discovered that the largest growing segment of homeless people is single moms aged 19-24. Many of them who make only minimum wage can’t cover the expenses of an apartment, transportation, food, medical care and more. She set out looking for a way to help these single women. Since then, Haven has helped rebuild the lives of countless women.
One mom that stood out to Naragon through this ministry is a single mom of two boys who always wanted to own her own shop. “This mom does facials, waxing, all with essential oils she blends herself. With our help, she was able to open her very own shop in Greenwood. We helped her with her logo, website and decorating her shop,” Naragon says.
It’s easy to see why Haven has been so successful. At the foundation of Haven is a model from a similar program in Ohio that received very high success rates. Naragon says, “The volunteer who helped us design the program was involved in an Ohio program that has a 96 percent positive rate. After going through her program, women are able to afford their own housing and stand on their own. At Haven, we ask all our women to go through the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace program, a cost which we subsidize, and we ask that they all get involved with a church of their choice and a Bible study.”
Dedicated and passionate about her work, Naragon shares her gift with her family. She says, “My kids are all involved. One does the finances, and another does the website and marketing. My whole family participates in Haven’s events as board members or helping raise funds and giving of time and efforts to make it beautiful.” As if that’s not enough, her son, Greg is promoting Haven’s interests by representing Haven, competing in the Johnson County Dancing with the Stars, September 9-10 at the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin.
In the years since Haven’s inception, Naragon, her board and staff have never slowed down, always finding bigger and better ways to be angels of grace. She says, “Haven and I have huge dreams. I drew out apartments with a commercial kitchen, childcare facility and a community center in the complex. Our goal is to have churches own some of these apartments and maintain them for their use as well. We want to provide a place where James 1:27 can be realized: ‘Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.’”
In 2013, Haven got a gift from God, coming one step closer to their goal. The gift came in the form of a former parsonage on the property of Greenwood Wesleyan Church. The parsonage was being vacated, and Haven obtained it, renovated it and transformed it in to a beautiful three-suite home. Naragon says, “They all share the kitchen, a dining room, family room and laundry. It has all new appliances, flooring and paint. I want this to be a home, not a shelter, for my girls.”
Like receiving manna from heaven, many generous donations continue to pour in. In fact, on August 26, Naragon will accept an $8,000 donation from the 100 Women Who Care of Johnson County. This organization, which Haven and Naragon recently joined, is a group of women who gather four times a year to share information about local charities. At each meeting, all contributing members put their charity’s name in a drawing, and this time, Haven’s name was selected. “God is so good,” Naragon says.
Now almost 10 years later, even after winning award after award, Naragon still remains humble. She says, “I am very humbled and excited to receive the Angel of Grace Award. But, I don’t like to brag. I forget to tell people all the things Haven does for lots of women. I was raised in a generation that we don’t talk about everything we do for others. It’s easy to do what you have a passion for, and I don’t consider it work.”
As grateful as Naragon and Haven are to receive these awards and donations, there are always more women in need. An angel’s work is never done, and they can’t do it alone. Haven needs the ongoing support of the community. In fact, Naragon says, “Haven is fundraising for a new roof and garage door on the home and to buy land or a building where we can house more women and see our dream become a reality.”
To accomplish the fundraising goals, Haven is holding two events this fall. On November 3, Haven is holding a Make and Take event. Guests purchase tickets to the dinner and make a craft for the Christmas season to take home. Tickets will be on sale soon. On December 3, Haven will hold an event that is sure to offer a slice of heaven, the Chocolate Extravaganza. The Extravaganza, held at Bay Horse Inn in Greenwood, will feature an exciting Christmas shopping experience, hosting a variety of vendors, and above all, plenty of chocolate. Proceeds from that event go to benefit Haven and Big Life.
Haven needs plenty of volunteers on their team of angels to help with the upcoming fundraising events and throughout the year. You can also make a financial contribution by sending your donation to Haven Women’s Ministry, P.O. Box 394, Greenwood, IN 46142. If you have gently used clothing and other household items, Haven accepts those as well. Visit havenwomensministry.org for details on how to help.