The future seemed bright for Deanna Barnes.
By 2003, she’d finished an associate degree at Motlow State Community College and had been blessed with a full-time job in a medical supply company she’d worked for since she was 15. She’d started as a file clerk and worked her way up to customer service and reimbursement manager, weathering more than a few company acquisitions.
Then, it all came crashing down.
Barnes, a single mom to three kids, began using drugs, and the addiction soon spiraled out of control.
“My addiction took absolutely everything from me,” Barnes recalled, her voice breaking. “I lost my job, my home, my children. That just pretty much broke me down. I lost all self-worth, all self-value, all confidence. I can’t really put into words the level of hopelessness and desperation I felt.”
In 2016, Barnes was accepted into Blue Monarch, a long-term residential recovery home for women and children in Monteagle, Tenn. Barnes came face-to-face with her addiction and was ready to find freedom through Blue Monarch’s residential recovery program.
“At Blue Monarch, I developed a personal relationship with Christ,” she said. “My mentors really helped me to find myself and regain purpose and passion for my life and future.”
To walk into that future, Barnes knew she needed a job and a bachelor’s degree would help her accomplish that. So, she made the decision to go back to school. Trevecca quickly rose to the top of her list.
That’s when Rachel Neal, associate director of enrollment for Trevecca’s non-traditional and graduate programs, met Deanna.
“I was familiar with Blue Monarch and the work that it does helping women recover from addiction and abusive relationships,” Neal said. “Deanna has never let her past control her future. She had a mission to get her degree and never let it stop her.”
Neal, who served as one of Barne’s instructors as well as her academic adviser, describes Barnes as a picture of grace and service.
“She is why we do what we do at Trevecca,” Neal said. “I think the possibilities are endless for her. She was an excellent, dedicated student who knew what she wanted and went out and did it.”
Barnes completed Trevecca’s Bachelor of Arts program in management and leadership earlier this month. She attended classes at Motlow State Community College in Tullahoma, Tenn., where her college career began more than a decade earlier.
“What caught my eye with Trevecca is that it’s a Christian organization,” Barnes said. “One of the greatest things about going to Trevecca for me has been the fact that we start every class with a devotional, and we have prayer time.”
Another selling point was Trevecca’s cohort model, in which students progress through the entire program with the same group of classmates. Barnes is thankful for the support and camaraderie she’s found among her classmates.
“These people got to know my past as an addict, but they also got to see where I am today. They got to walk alongside me when I regained visitation with my daughter,” she said. “It’s really great working with a cohort. You’re building relationships that are going to last a lifetime, and that’s one of the best rewards.”
Susan Binkley, Blue Monarch’s founder, says that the recovery program is focused on helping women find “total freedom” from addiction so that they can be the parents they need to be.
“A huge part of what we do is help women become better parents, so they can hopefully be reunited with their children,” Binkley said. “We also have a really robust children’s program, Proverbs 22:6, because we recognize that a child needs recovery as much as Mom.”
At Blue Monarch, addiction recovery and sobriety are “one spoke in a very large wheel,” according to Binkley. Women in the Christian-based program learn about God and what it means to have a relationship with Him. They participate in counseling and learn about life skills and work ethic. They take parenting classes.
“We recognize that if women didn’t grow up learning how to parent their children effectively, that could potentially be a trigger for relapse once they leave,” Binkley said. “So, we provide coaching for every mother to help her with her specific parenting issues.”
From the beginning, Binkley noticed Barnes’ deep desire to overcome her addiction and fierce determination to be reunited with her children. Binkley also saw something in the younger woman that made a lasting impressing: humility.
“One of the things I really admire about Deanna is the enormous amount of humility it took for her to go through this program,” she said. “I teach an intense nine- to 10-week work ethic class right before women finish our program. She went through that and that’s when I really saw that she was capable of a lot more than I realized.”
Barnes’ humility and capability continued to garner Binkley’s attention when Barnes began working in Blue Monarch’s granola business, Out of the Blue Granola, eventually becoming the manager. The business provides onsite employment for women participating in the program, who bake and package the granola for sale.
When Barnes completed the recovery program and moved to an independent home on Blue Monarch’s campus, she continued to impress.
“Occasionally, you run across someone who can just do anything that needs to be done and do it efficiently and do it right, and she’s that person,” Binkley said. “So, I didn’t want to see her leave. We basically created a position that didn’t really exist to allow her to have a job and stay here.”
Barnes now serves as an executive assistant and project manager at the nonprofit.
“Over the last 10 months, I’ve been able to give back to this organization that saved my life,” Barnes said. “I’ve also been able to use the skills that I’ve learned at Trevecca with my coworkers, but also to help instill some of those characteristics and qualities [that I learned] into ladies who are enrolled in the program.”
Stepping into the Future
Recently, when Blue Monarch’s administrative director position became vacant, Barnes added those responsibilities to her plate on an interim basis.
“Not one thing has fallen through the cracks,” Binkley said. “She’s pretty amazing, and she’s done it with a really good attitude.”
Barnes will also get a chance to use the knowledge she’s gained at Trevecca and Blue Monarch as the nonprofit seeks to expand. Blue Monarch hopes to buy 58 acres adjacent to their campus to build more housing, which will allow the nonprofit to help more women.
“My goal is to be instrumental in that growth and expansion process and use what I’ve learned throughout this bachelor’s program to be the best employee at the company and to help raise up other leaders—like I’ve had the opportunity given to me,” Barnes said.