Almost 20 years since the first opened door

Please take just a few minutes to read this blog from one of our very own founders of The Next Door. Andrea Overby was our first Board Chair and has continued to stay involved and committed to the mission of The Next Door for the past 19 years. We are honored to have her calm spirit, trusted insight, and faithful devotion as part of this organization. Andrea currently serves on our board, chairs our Staff Spiritual Engagement committee, and is a long-time volunteer that leads bible study with our clients on Wednesday evenings.”

Rachel Morris, Executive Director & Amanda Dunlap, Clinical Executive Director

It was after 8:00 pm on a warm and rainy evening in June 2004, when she knocked on the front door of what was to be known as “The Next Door.”

Sarah had told the cab driver who picked her up as she was being released from the Davidson County jail to take her to the Greyhound Bus Station at the corner of 8th and Demonbreun in downtown Nashville. 

She did not buy a bus ticket, however, but instead she walked across the street to the building in which she would begin her life anew, a life of transformation. There was no sign or name on the location in 2004, but TND Executive Director Linda Leathers was waiting there to open the door and welcome Sarah when she arrived that evening.

It has been almost 20 years since those doors opened to women just like Sarah, leaving incarceration and finding support and rehabilitation at the Next Door. 

The Next Door will celebrate its first 20 years next May 2024.

That opening day of May 5, 2004, had been preceded by almost two years of prayer by groups of women, The Wild Praying Women, and much volunteer support from the founding church, Nashville First Baptist Church.

Under the leadership of Linda Leathers, volunteers conducted Community Needs Assessments and learned that there was a shortage in our city of re-entry services for women coming from incarceration. Men and women volunteers also formed a board of directors to raise funds and help guide the staffing and programming to meet the goals of helping women in need.

As a faith-based non-profit, The Next Door considered Faith to be the undergirding message of its core values of wholeness, hope, community, respect, encouragement, and faith. From the very beginning until the present, these values have been the motivation for the work of the professional staff and volunteers.

“We feel that this is a God-sized mission,” said Ms. Leathers, and as we seek to carry out our mission, we also encourage our women residents to learn to “live in freedom.”

During the first ten years of its existence, The Next Door served more than 10,000 women residents. Statistics show that the women who went through the six-month residential program had a recidivism rate of less than 8 percent when the average rate in Tennessee was 16%. More importantly, the participants were reunited with family, learned to manage their finances, found, and kept employment, and learned to form and maintain healthy relationships.

Today, the property of the original location of The Next Door is occupied by a large hotel. In 2014 TND relocated to its current location on 22nd Avenue. Under contract with the Tennessee Department of Corrections, The Next Door also maintains an early release facility for women in Chattanooga.

As time progressed, the leaders of The Next Door realized that many of its residents desperately needed medical help and guidance in breaking free from addictions resulting from substance abuse. Today the program provides recovery services for up to 79 women at a time, including detox services and specialized help to pregnant women.

Sarah, our earliest resident who lived at The Next Door in 2004, now has a position as director of an organization which provides many kinds of assistance to homeless men.

She looks forward to celebrating the 20th anniversary of her graduation from The Next Door and her entry into a transformed life. Her transformational experience at The Next Door has resulted in her outreach to others who need encouragement and a change of life direction.

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