Local Nonprofit Helps Women Achieve Physical, Mental and Spiritual Wellness
Growing up in an abusive household, Mary Beth Woehrle fell into addiction and experienced many rough years as a teen and young adult. At age 25, she began seeing a counselor. At 26, she started an AA program to get sober. She also had bariatric surgery and hit the gym in order to improve her physical fitness. As she worked out and shed weight, however, suddenly a wave of unexpected emotions began rising to the surface.
“I found myself in tears because I couldn’t contain what was happening emotionally,” says Woehrle, who had a revelation. “I thought, ‘This is why so many people fail at bariatric procedures. They start losing their buffer and the past trauma issues that so many obese people have bottled up come rushing back. As a result, they go back to what’s comfortable in order to avoid dealing with the emotion.’”
Though Woehrle worked hard to become physically and emotionally healthy, she admits to being late to the party in recognizing that she needed to improve her spiritual health.
For years, Woehrle worked as an optometrist. Though her career was fulfilling, she felt a tugging at her heart to help women who were experiencing some of the same struggles she had in her youth. In 2017 she launched the registered nonprofit IGNITE.TRANSFORM, a mental health program that blends spiritual and physical wellness in order to empower women to become stronger in mind, body and spirit.
“This is a mental health program that uses counseling and physical wellness as a tool, but also uses the love of Christ to transform lives,” says Woehrle, noting that the multi-dimensional program utilizes various professionals all working together to create powerful healing.
“As far as I know, our mission is unlike any other in our community,” Woehrle says. “No other program is doing mental health as we are.”
According to Woehrle, many of the program participants have experienced significant abuse, trauma, addiction or depression in their past, leading to social isolation. All of these issues can keep women from living their best lives.
“Everybody has a story, and every story matters to God,” Woehrle says. “If we would spend more time listening to other people’s stories and sharing our own, we would have much less division in our world.”
Woehrle describes the one-year program as a deep dive, not a superficial fix.
“You have to be willing to spend the time to receive the services fully, as it’s not offered à la carte,” says Woehrle, who sits down with each potential client during an initial meeting to determine if they are a good match for the program.
Every week participants meet with a mental health specialist, and work with a certified nutritionist to teach them healthy eating habits. Finally, there is the spiritual growth aspect.
“We are deeply committed to the fact that this program works because God works in their lives,” says Woehrle, adding that any denomination or faith is welcome.
The program includes a Christian component with Christian music played in the gym, but participation in bible studies is not mandatory.
“We try to meet people where they are, and to talk further in their faith to whatever degree they want to walk,” Woehrle says.
Though the program is scheduled to last one year, each individual’s timeline can vary due to specific circumstances. For example, during the first six weeks of starting at IGNITE.TRANSFORM, one woman grieved the loss of three important people in her life.
“She was shut down for a bit so it ended up taking her 16 months to finish instead of 12,” Woehrle says. “I tell the ladies on the first day that this is not going to be a straight-line path. It’s more like Chutes and Ladders.”
Woehrle is grateful to have the opportunity to change women’s lives for the better. Time and again she has witnessed complete transformations.
“When they first come in, they have no hope,” Woehrle says. “Over time, that flicker of hope emerges.”
Woehrle recalls the time she received an application from a woman who sought out IGNITE.TRANSFORM after losing her sight, and who was beginning to feel lost. As a former optometrist, Woehrle couldn’t help feeling that this woman was God-sent.
“This is why we do what we do,” Woehrle says. “Everyone has a purpose in life, and when you find it and live it, there’s nothing that feels more fulfilling.”
May is U.S. Mental Health Awareness month. If you would like to donate to IGNITE.TRANSFORM or learn more about the program, visit ignitetransform.org and call 317-567-9667.