BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) – Life looked very different this time last year for Heather Skipper.

“I literally was losing everything that I loved and cared about to an addiction I didn’t even see coming,” said Skipper.

Skipper was addicted to crystal meth, in jail, and temporarily lost custody of her daughter.

“It’s almost impossible to get back up from that, unless you have something drastically happen,” said Skipper. “For me, that was an arrest and Humble House.”

Skipper was arrested in February of last year and applied for Humble House Ministries from inside her jail cell. She started the program a few months later in April.

Humble House Ministries is a faith-based transitional recovery program for women in Bay County.

There are currently three transitional recovery homes in Bay County; one in Panama City and two homes in Callaway.

Rachel Duvall created Humble House Ministries about three years ago.

She’s the 2023 winner of our Remarkable Women contest.

“If we save one woman, we save a whole family,” said Duvall.

Duvall understands what these women are facing. She started drinking alcohol when she was 12. By age 18, she found herself addicted to drugs and poor choices.

“The more you’re around people who use drugs, the more you’re introduced to different types of drugs. And I was addicted to everything.”

At age 24, she wound up back in a jail cell. This time, for about five months, away from her six-year-old-son, and pregnant.

“Being in the jail, it’s life-changing,” said Duvall. “It’s something I’d never want to go through again.”

A judge ordered Duvall into a Mommy and Me recovery program where she got clean. Her experience there birthed a desire for creating more programs like these.

“About two months into my rehab sentence, my mom got sentenced to the same rehab I went to,” said Duvall. “So I had my mom, my baby, and me all in rehab, at the same time.”

Putting families back together is Humble House Ministries’ ultimate goal.

“This is not it’s not just saving the life of a woman. And I think that’s my heart is we’re saving lives of their children and we’re saving the mom from being in addiction.”

Duvall said this is a place where women and children can do their recovery, essentially together.

“I want this to be a recovery program where any woman, no matter what their financial status is, if they have no money, they can come into the program.”

Duvall said it’s not uncommon for women to stay for free until they can secure a job and regain their footing.

Most women in her program are also working through DCF cases where their rights to their children are on the line.

“Because of the length of our program, we’re able to help these women reach unification and we’re the only program doing that,” said Duvall.

Duvall said five moms have been able to reunite with their children and regain full custody in their program.

Heather Skipper is one of those mothers. She graduated from the program in December of 2022. She now has a full-time job, lives in her own home with her daughter, and has been sober for more than a year.

Duvall said at Humble House, you get a recovery program and you get transitional housing. Every woman, no matter where they are in their addiction recovery journey, is held accountable. All women are required to attend some of their life advancement classes.

Duvall’s passion goes beyond Humble House.

She also has a separate job as the Faith-based Re-entry Coordinator at the Bay County Jail. She leads a weekly support group for incarcerated women and gives the female inmates resources to all programs that are available to them for help maintaining their sobriety once they’re out of jail.

Keeping busy, Duvall has a third role as a Ladies’ Assistant for the First Baptist Church’s Most Excellent Way Ministry. The program supports women struggling with substance abuse.

“I love ministering to broken women who have come from a lot of the same background that I have; the wounds that cause them to make poor decisions,” said Duvall. “And I just wanted to be a part of, you know, even if some little part of being a part of their lives, to help them to know that they have a purpose that God has created them for. And they’re beautiful. And what they’ve done is not who they are.”

Duvall started attending the ministry’s support group after she got out of rehab. Duvall said Associate Pastor and Most Excellent Way Ministry Director, Rick McClung, and his wife became her spiritual parents. After about a year into her sobriety, she started walking other women through it.

“So in my heart, I just wanted to give to them the gift that had been given to me of people pouring into my life and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” said Duvall. “I had no idea that I could live up to this type of potential, you know?”

She’s now led the support group for the past 15 years.

Her role with Most Excellent Way also takes her to Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy once a month, to run a support group for incarcerated women there.

Duvall stays busy with all of these roles but thrives on seeing women grow and rise up to their potential.

“I just feel that the urgency, the urgency to help more people is what fuels the energy that gives me the energy to just keep going harder and faster and stronger,” said Duvall. “And raise up more women to help me to do it.”

Many women who come through the program volunteer for the program or even are on staff.

12 women have graduated Humble House Ministries since its inception in September of 2020.

Duvall said she loves seeing these women become successful and stay sober. However, she says the need is greater than what the program is doing.

“We need more help,” Duvall said. “We need more volunteers, we need more funding.”

Humble House Ministries relies completely on the community for funding.

“The community has been so good to us. There have been so many families and churches and businesses that have believed in what we’re doing.”

If you feel compelled to donate, click here.

Humble House Ministries now has a thrift store open to the public full of gently used furniture. All proceeds go directly to Humble House. You can find the store at 271 Star Avenue. It’s open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Rachel Duvall has been selected as the winner of the Remarkable Women of the Panhandle 2023 Award.