Vikki Luna is the founder and executive director of the Light-House Recovery Program, a local nonprofit, Christian-based program that serves women recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. Born and raised in Fresno, Luna loves helping women in the community.
Although the Light-House has only been in existence for about ten years, Luna has been working with the county of Fresno in substance abuse services and for the probation department for a combined twenty-five years of experience. “I have a passion for working with women,” says Luna. “It’s definitely my calling.”
Luna had two small children at home, one of them a newborn, and her probation job often required sixteen-hour shifts. She set out into the substance abuse arena not because she had compassion for the women at the time, but because she needed a job schedule that fit her family’s needs. “But once I started sitting down and hearing their stories, the Lord just broke my heart for these women,” says Luna. God showed her that the women she was helping were no different from the girls that she’d helped in the juvenile institute. They may have been in adult bodies, but they were still broken and looking for love.
The Light-House Recovery Program
The Light-House Recovery Program is a six-month residential program for women recovering from substance abuse. The women live there for a minimum of six months, and while there they see an on-site therapist, attend education classes, and learn life skills such as sewing, cooking, budgeting, and shopping. “The woman is empowered while she’s there,” says Luna.
The woman then enters a re-entry phase called Practicing and Proving, where she incorporates what she’s learned in her classes into her treatment plan for self-reliance, practicing and proving her commitment to recovery.
Since opening ten years ago, the Light-House has maintained above an 80% success rate. “Our women get healthy and stay healthy,” says Luna. “Our women are successful.”
Luna likens the role of the Light-House staff to safety rails on the side of the freeway. They’re not trying to restrict the women, they’re trying to give them boundaries that will keep them safe. “We hold them accountable, but they are adult women and they’re free to make their own choices. We don’t lord over them,” says Luna. “When they have the power of choice, and they’re able to make those choices, then they’re committed.”
When the women move through the program and become productive members of society, it feels amazing. “When they get their first paycheck, it’s like the house is lit up. It’s really the ‘light’ house when a woman gets her first paycheck, because that’s something that she’s earned,” says Luna. “Now she’s feeling valuable again. She’s feeling like she’s contributing. These girls like becoming taxpayers.”
Many Socio-Economic Backgrounds
The women who come to the Light-House come from many socio-economic backgrounds. Some of the women are former foster children with no support network, while others are college educated with large support networks. For those with a family and support network, Luna must help the women decide if their families are healthy and have good boundaries, or if they’re co-dependent and enable the women’s substance abuse. “It’s really teaching that woman how to identify what is healthy and what is not healthy,” says Luna.
The Light-House Name
“In my personal life, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and so there’s a light,” says Luna. “We’re living in darkness, we’re trying to find our way through this journey of life like most of these women are.” When someone comes along and shines a light on a different way — THE way, Luna contends — we can stop stumbling through the dark. “So that’s how we came about with the name.”
Advice to Her Younger Self
“Get up under somebody who will mentor you,” says Luna. She often gets phone calls from people asking how to start a nonprofit. Explaining how to do it isn’t something she can do in an hour-long session. It takes years to learn all the rules. Luna advises her younger self, and others interested in forming nonprofits, to find someone who is rehearsed in the arena and serve under them. Get out in the field. “Experience beats education every single time,” she says.
Her Daily Routine
Luna keeps a written calendar and schedule to keep herself on track. She starts her morning with a quiet time with God, drinking her coffee, reflecting on the Bible, and letting Him counsel her. Then she gets her husband prepared for his day. “A lot of times, especially women who are trying to serve God that are married, they get their ministries out of order,” says Luna. “Our husband is supposed to be our first ministry. So I get him going, get him out the door, then I head off to work.”
Getting Through the Hard Times
The promises of God get Luna through the hard times. “Unless we know His heart, we won’t be able to trust His hand,” she says. “But because I spend time getting to know His heart, I can trust Him.” She keeps track of the hard times over the years so she can look back and see that God came through on them.
She also keeps a prayer tree, which is a craft she makes from construction paper at the beginning of each year. She writes down her challenges and personal goals as a written log of her prayer requests. “Then I log on there when I see the enemy bringing about opposition, and I log on there when I see God moving on my behalf,” she says. “So I’m able to keep a visual record.” Being able to see it and reflect on it helps her remember it at her next hurdle.
Books That Made a Difference
The Bible has made a difference in Luna’s life. She also recommends Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero, Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, and a good devotional book.
Right now, Luna is passionate about buying the Light-House home. The landlord is terminally ill, so all assets are being quickly liquidated. “So we need to purchase this home, or we will lose it,” says Luna. Not only would that mean displacing fifteen to eighteen women and their children, but it would be difficult to find another home so well-suited to the Light-House. This one is 4600 square feet, and is zoned in such a way that it allows the women to live there as well as allowing for office tasks, education, and therapy. It’s also a mere two blocks away from the Cornerstone Coffee Company, which is operated by women from the Light-House and sends 100% of its proceeds towards funding the Light-House. “So it’s very important that we stay there,” Luna says.
“When you invest in a woman, you’re investing in not just her future but in all of her children,” says Luna. “We are changing generations, not just one woman.”
Contact the Light-House Recovery Program