Wear Gloves’ Dignity House offers counseling, safe space

Janice Prothro, a peer volunteer who is a recovered client, left, gets a hug from Brandy Forman-Kraft, the director of the Dignity House, as they paint a mural as part of the art therapy at the Wear Gloves Dignity House on Northeast 9th Street in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

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Posted September 30, 2021 | By James Blevins, james@ocalagazette.com

Janice Prothro, a peer volunteer who is a recovered client, left, gets a hug from Brandy Forman-Kraft, the director of the Dignity House, as they paint a mural as part of the art therapy at the Wear Gloves Dignity House on Northeast 9th Street in Ocala, on Sept. 28. Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

For more than a decade, Wear Gloves Inc. has been trying to help those in need get back on their feet and rejoin the community.

Wear Gloves has launched several initiatives as a nonprofit organization: the Dignity Center, Dignity Roasters Coffee and Church in the Garden are three of its earliest.

On Oct. 1, Wear Gloves will open its latest initiative, Dignity House.

The house, located on 98 N.E. 9th St., will feature a drop-in center and counseling services.

Brandy Forman-Kraft, program director for the Dignity House, said clients are already showing up.

“People have just started coming anyway,” said Forman-Kraft. “Word was getting out, so we were like, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’ We’ve opened early—the need is that great.”

Dignity House operates as a safe space and drop-in center for those in the community who need a sanctuary. Support services such as counseling, case management and recovery coaching will be available on-site, as well as art therapy.

Art therapy groups, explained Forman-Kraft, help clients step outside of survival mode and back into themselves.

“The goal here is to create a space that feels safe enough for someone, even if they’re still living in a somewhat precarious or distressed situation, to be able to engage in that kind of creative process and be able to express themselves.

“And the other piece of that is,” she continued, “it takes time to feel safe enough to start sharing your words with someone.”

Forman-Kraft’s goal with counseling at Dignity House is to help people not feel trapped or isolated in their lives.

Once a person feels good about who they are and has a sense of purpose, she said, only then can they feel comfortable rejoining a community.

“I believe that people need to be in community in order to be healthy. And it’s very hard to feel part of a community if you’re struggling with things in your mind or trying to deal with your emotions,” said Forman-Kraft.

Brandy Forman-Kraft, left, the director of the Dignity House, talks with Tad Varuolo, Janice Prothro and Marie Nichol, left to right, as they paint a mural on Sept. 28. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette]

Executive Director Wendy Kebrdle founded Wear Gloves with her husband Ken in 2009 to help the distressed of Marion County—a mission, she said, that has only gotten harder in the wake of COVID-19.

“A lot of our clients are homeless,” said Kebrdle. “Many of them are just the working poor having a hard time paying bills and supporting their families after losing their jobs. And the need has greatly increased during this pandemic time.”

According to Kebrdle, a lot of the work that Wear Gloves does is workforce readiness training.

“We train our clients in some job skills. We want to help them become more employable,” she said. “The way we do that is we partner with manufacturers around Marion County who will outsource work to us. And then we process the work here.”

The Dignity Center employs workers, many of whom haven’t had an actual paycheck for a long time, said Kebrdle.

“But they’re on payroll [here],” she added. “We train them on good financial decisions. We partner with the banks in town. We have counseling services that will help them understand what to do once you have money in your pocket and what not to do.”

Wear Gloves sees about 100 clients a week, said Kebrdle.

She said while the clients were getting paychecks, they still needed additional support.

“That’s why we decided we really needed to invest in the Dignity House,” she explained.

Dignity House has two stories: The bottom floor is the drop-in center and the arts and crafts area. The upstairs will serve as counseling offices.

“We’re all recovering from something,” said Forman-Kraft. “Whether it’s from an addiction or a mental health issue, we’re all recovering and need to have something that brings us joy and peace.”

Wear Gloves’ name comes from Matthew 9:37, which says: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

The organization’s mission is essentially to help the workers in Marion County find their gloves to get to work in their lives and on their lives.

“They’re really good about their philosophy on this sort of healthy interdependence,” said Forman-Kraft of Wear Gloves. “And that’s the whole idea, with doing things with dignity. It’s not one person sort of benevolently helping someone else. It’s mutual. And we all have needs, and we all have things to offer.”

Currently, Wear Gloves has 24 volunteers, but is always looking for more, said Kebrdle, especially those interested in teaching art.

For information, visit weargloves.org/ or call Wear Gloves at (352) 727-0239.

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