Local women receive help through new program
by Patrick McCreless
Dec 27, 2013 | 3724 views |  0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Claudia Elston started an area women's help group called A Way Out.  Photo by Bill Wilson.
Claudia Elston started an area women's help group called A Way Out. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Amanda Morris doesn't just want a job. As the sole provider for six children, she needs one.

The 32-year-old Anniston resident has been on her own since her mother had a stroke several months ago. Struggling to pay her bills, Morris has managed to find temporary work here and there, but nothing long-term.

"Once an employer asks me if I have kids, the interview is over at that point," Morris said. "People don't want to take the chance on someone with six kids."

But Morris is not out of options.

Several weeks ago, the Calhoun County Department of Human Resources referred Morris to the A Way Out day program. Created by Claudia Elston, the 12-week program is designed to help young women in need.

"I think she's wonderful," Morris said of Elston. "She fills out job applications for me and sends them."

A former alcohol and drug addict turned drug counselor, Elston first started the program in Huntsville but decided to bring it to her hometown of Anniston in September as a way to help women the way she was once helped.

"Somebody helped my kids when I was on drugs," Elston said. "I'm intending to pay it forward ... to offer a place that meets women's needs."

The program, housed at 902 Noble St., is mainly for women 18 years old through their early 20s. It offers a collection of different free services, from training for job interviews to setting up doctor appointments and providing transportation services. Elston provides drug counseling services and free drug tests. Her office is also a wealth of informational brochures for various other local, state and federal programs that provide assistance to women in need.

"Many of these women who are 18, are just coming out of foster homes — they have no bank account. They have nothing," Elston said. "My program is to get them to the next level, to find out what's wrong and take care of that need."

Elston applies for grants and organizes fundraisers to keep the program going. But she also pays for some of the services, like drug tests, out of her own pocket.

Morris said she knows some of the women who Elston has helped in the program.

"She's helped meth addicts," Morris said. "She gives her all, 110 percent."

Elston said she's here to help young women in need, no matter what they might have done in their past.

"I just want you to come here," Elston said.

For more information about the A Way Out program, call Claudine Elston at 256-740-2354.

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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