Joey Voorhees, a case manager at Hope Counseling and Addiction Services met his wife, Jill, when he graduated from Adult & Teen Challenge of Ohio Valley’s program and she gave him a new pair of dress shoes. That was eight years and more than 240 pairs of shoes ago.
“I got to meet Jill that day and she seemed really nice,” Joey said. “She’s got a big heart for everything that she does. That left an impression on me.”
Jill started “The Next Step, Remembering Harper” in 2015, providing a pair of dress shoes to each person, man or woman, who graduates from the program. Joey’s was the seventh pair of shoes the program awarded. To date, Jill has given more than 250 pairs of shoes to ATCOV graduates.
Jill used to get the shoe sizes of the future graduates from a pastor who worked at ATCOV. When he suffered health problems, Joey, who started as an intern after graduation and then began working full-time, took over those duties. “That’s what led us to start talking,” Joey said. That led to their first date which led to them falling in love and marrying on May 25 of this year. “It progressed very slowly,” Jill said of their relationship. “We took our good old time.” Joey supports his wife in the program in whatever way he can. If she can’t make a graduation because of work, he fills in for her.
In 2013, Jill returned to Youngstown after living in the Cincinnati area for several years. She had been in an unhealthy marriage. She got involved in a church where the pastor, Chris Russo, who is a Teen Challenge graduate, showed her that Jesus was crucified for all of us, she said. “Once you finally understand that, it’s truly a different experience,” Jill said. “It goes from being a religion to being life, to being your breath.”
She learned about ATCOV’s program. Her boss, at the department store where she was working, urged staffers to write down a dream and post it on the bulletin board. The plan was to make one of the dreams come true.
The Lord spoke to her about donating dress shoes for the men who graduated from ATCOV. “Of course, where I was, in a million years I didn’t know if I could do something like that,” Jill said. At the time, Jill was still newly single and concerned about paying the bills and caring for her children. She charged forth anyway, putting her faith in God. It was her dream that got picked at work.
At the same time, her niece who was born with heart and lung problems, died at three weeks old. “I named this newly found ministry ‘The Next Step, Remembering Harper’ for her because each one of those guys they’ve got to know two things,” she said of ATCOV graduates. “They’ve got to know their relationship with Jesus, but they’ve also got to know that somebody needs to hear their story.” Their stories may be just what someone else needs to seek help or to stick with a program.
The graduates are also walking for Harper. “She didn’t take her first steps, but those guys take their first steps out of that program in her memory and in her honor,” Jill said.
She believes God brought she and her husband together. “I have to say Teen Challenge is truly the best,” Jill said. “I would have never found someone who has a heart for others and Jesus like Joey. Through the now eight and a half years of The Next Step and seven years of knowing Joey, God sure can move in the biggest ways.”