2021 in Reflection: Featuring Mary Spencer Veazey

Mary Spencer Veazey serves at The Next Door as the Community Outreach and Events Coordinator. She has been a part of the TND team for 11 months and as 2021 is approaching its end, she took a moment to reflect on her time with TND. Please enjoy what she had to share!


People always talk about their dream jobs. Some dream of being a doctor, an actress, a teacher, a musician. I wasn’t one of those people that graduated from high school knowing exactly what I wanted to do. In fact, I switched my major 4 times at Auburn. But I always knew I wanted to be in a field that made a positive impact.


After graduating from Auburn, I started my MBA program at Belmont. One thing I had been praying for before I moved to Nashville was a mentor. I had an incredible mentor in Auburn, and I hoped to have someone to guide me in my new city.


I was so excited when Belmont told me they would pair me up with a faith mentor. I was a little less excited when they told me the person I had been paired with was a man. I was really hoping to have a woman mentor, so I told them I would pass for now if they didn’t have any women mentors available.


Months went by and I honestly forgot about the mentorship opportunity. In that same season, someone I loved was really struggling with addiction and mental health. I was over the moon when I heard they had decided to go to a rehab facility. I thought this was going to be a pivotal moment not just for this person, but for the lives impacted by this person as well.


And then they decided not to go. I was crushed.


But God moved in a way not even a week later that could not be a coincidence. Out of the blue, the mentorship program reached back out and told me they had found me a mentor and her name was Kate McKinnie. They told me she worked for an organization called The Next Door.


I googled it as I was curious what this company could be, and lo and behold it was an addiction treatment center for women. I started laughing out loud.


I made arrangements to meet with my new mentor and she invited me to come over to The Next Door. I agreed to come over, but I told myself I would not share with her the struggles of my friend who was battling addiction. Wishful thinking on my part because about 10 minutes in to being at The Next Door I burst into tears and told her everything.

Shortly after we met, I began volunteering at The Next Door.


I didn’t think I would work for a nonprofit one day. That thought hadn’t really crossed my mind. But then again, I didn’t really expect to graduate from grad school in a worldwide pandemic either.


As I began my job hunt, I didn’t think I was going to ever be able to find a job, much less a job that I enjoyed since 2020 was not an ideal time to graduate. But each night I kept praying that God would open the right door. I only wanted and needed one door to open, so that’s what I kept praying.


Kate called me one day about an opening at The Next Door. I was shocked because I hadn’t really thought about working there full-time, but I thought this must be exactly what the Lord had in store for me.


On December 23rd, 2020, I got a really sweet Christmas gift from The Next Door: an offer to be the new Community Outreach and Events Coordinator. I couldn’t believe it. Not only did God open the right door, He called me to The Next Door. He’s in every detail.


The one thing I thought I was going to dread about my job was the fundraising part: asking people for money. But I’m a year in now and I still haven’t really asked anyone for money… instead I tell people about the work God is doing in our ministry and He provides people and organizations time and time again that feel connected to what we’re doing and give to further His Kingdom.


I cried a lot the first month in my job. Not because anything horrible had happened at work, I was just heartbroken to see firsthand how desperately women need our services and how addiction treatment is not easily accessible to those who are uninsured and underinsured.


There are many clients I won’t forget, but one in particular stays with me. We’ll call her Kennedy. Kennedy was sold into sex slavery by her father when she was 10. Her pimp pumped her full of drugs so she would perform sex acts, so she became addicted at a young age by no choice of her own. Many years later, her and another one of the girls got a hold of their pimp’s gun and were able to run away from him.


Kennedy had two kids, but they were adopted out because of her addiction. Her kids’ adoptive parents had told her if she could get clean she could start talking to the kids again in 6 months.


So Kennedy came to The Next Door. And we became friends. She would come by my office and chat with me. There were really hard days, days where I thought she might leave.


One day in particular, she got into an argument with another client. She raced up to my office, pulled me by the hand and told me I had to take her for a walk.


So I did. And by the time we got back to the building we were laughing about the silliest things.


Turns out we all have a lot more in common than you think. Sometimes you just need a friend. And I was grateful to have a new friend in Kennedy.


Kennedy graduated. I was so incredibly proud of her. But then Kennedy relapsed a month later and we have not seen her since.


Sometimes this job tears me apart. You want to fix everything. You want to take every client under your wing, but you can’t. I’ve learned it’s hard for me to leave work at home sometimes because these are people’s lives we’re dealing with. It can often be a life or death situation for these women.


I think what I’ve learned this year is that my eyes may be open but I don’t always see. I’m not always listening well. I’ve realized what it means to truly listen, to truly invest knowing it may not always work out the way we want it to. It could end in heartbreak, but it could also be just the beginning of a woman’s lifelong sobriety.


The lessons I’ve learned in a year at The Next Door I would not have learned in 30 years somewhere else. The Next Door is where I’ve discovered what grace and compassion look like truly exemplified. Our clients have taught me more than I could ever put into words.


Thank you TND for a year I will never forget. I cannot wait for all that is to come.


All the love,

Mary Spencer


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