'It was an incredible journey.'
Left behind by her boyfriend on a trip to Daytona Beach for Bike Week, the woman had nowhere to go. She was robbed and beaten. But then, the police took her to Heaven’s Garden Ministries, a women’s shelter on Ridgewood Avenue in Daytona Beach. She was able to stay there, and the staff helped her get replacements for lost documents and enough money to get home.
This is one of the stories that Aida Spina remembers about the shelter she operated for three years until 2006. Her book, “No Matter What” is the history of those years, about a faith-based residential program for women who were coming out prostitution, homelessness or domestic violence.
“We helped them get back into society and become productive community members,” Spina said recently. “It was an incredible journey.”
Now 10 years later, she said she felt compelled to write the 98-page book as a way to thank all of the people and organizations that helped, and to encourage everyone with the knowledge that there is no such thing as hopelessness.
“I believe there is a way out of any circumstance,” she said
Spina hopes those who remember the shelter, or who are interested in the book, will stop by a book signing 1-4 p.m. July 9 at Family Christian Stores, 2286 W. International Speedway Blvd., Daytona Beach.
She hopes to see people who worked with the shelter so she can personally thank them.
“I hope to see a lot of familiar faces,” she said.
Spina remembers working with women who had their children taken away because of drug abuse or other reasons. She would arrange to have visits with the Department of Children and Families and the children.
“We would build bridges,” she said. “Eventually they would get their children back, which was incredible.”
Many people and agencies helped with the shelter, including Stewart Marchman Foundation, state and local criminal justice systems, doctors, police; schools, the homeless coalition and churches.
“We all want to help,” Spina said. “If we get together we can do it better by uniting resources.”
Her efforts received recognition. The shelter operated during the faith-based initiative by President George W. Bush, and she was invited to Tallahassee to meet Gov. Jeb Bush, and then to Washington, D.C., where she met President Bush in 2004.
A volunteer remembers
Doris King, of Ormond Beach, a lay minister who works at Florida Health Hospice, would have Bible studies at the shelter for the women.
“I really am hoping to see a program like that again,” she said. “She did an awesome job. They took them to the doctor, to classes to help get a job … people would come in to provide counseling.”
King said she sometimes hears from women who got help at the shelter and they are still doing well.
A new beginning
There were more than 50 volunteers at the shelter, teaching computer skills, how to dress, arts and crafts, etc.
“It was an amazing season,” Spina said.
It was a live-in place, and Spina lived here as well. She put her all into the shelter, and found, after three years, that she was actually doing more work than one person should do.
“I was burned out,” she said. “I had a lot of volunteers but the responsibility was on my shoulders and it took a toll on me.”
She now has plans to start a new Heaven’s Garden Ministries, perhaps even bigger than before. But this time, she has a person who will work along beside her and share the duties, Nancy Mills, of New Smyrna Beach. They are looking for a location, and once they find one will be able to get started.
Spina is a pastor, ordained by Michael Bacon of Glory Tabernacle International Ministries in Youngsville, North Carolina. She has worked as a supervisor and woman’s advocate at a domestic abuse shelter and at Serenity House, where she first got the idea to start Heaven’s Garden.
Spina has been featured in several magazines and received a proclamation from Volusia County on Women in Leadership Day in 2005. She prayed in a nationally televised event at the Speedway during the National Day of Prayer in 2004.