Back in 1963, it cost Johnny Zenoni five cents to mail a letter. That year, for the first time, his letters would have included a five-digit zip code. If he used the phone, he might have been wowed by the new push button models out that year, a big leap forward from the old rotary numbers. And the former alcoholic, who kicked drinking for good in ’63, might have opted to sip on the new diet soda “TaB” just introduced or snack on the new cookie sensation called Chips Ahoy!
A lot has changed since Johnny Zenoni founded Providence Home with eight men on a Lexington Farm. Over the next six decades, Zenoni would be forced to make more than 25 moves throughout the Midlands area as his home for vulnerable men continued to grow but was often met with resistance by neighbors unwilling to share their street with men recovering from drugs, alcohol or incarceration.
But no matter where he landed over those many years, Johnny always carried with him a desire to build a chapel for vulnerable men and a fierce commitment to focus on Christ in serving them.
On April 3, 2023, 60 years after Johnny Zenoni first dreamed of a chapel where “his men” could freely and comfortably worship and praise Jesus Christ, the William “Bill” Cogdill Memorial Chapel was officially opened for use by the 60 men who temporarily reside at Providence Home.
Executive Director Rob Settle, who took over in 2013, had no idea the founder of Providence Home had a dream to build a chapel when the Lord placed the same desire on his heart.
“When the Zenoni family recently shared that revelation, it felt like a love letter from God stretching across the decades,” Settle says. “It was just another confirmation that God is faithful, and His timing is absolutely perfect.”
Johnny Zenoni passed in 1993 and would no doubt be stunned by the transformation of our tidy campus on North Main Street that now features the chapel as its cornerstone.
But what makes Providence Home so very special is not what’s changed, but what remains the same. Johnny vowed he would keep Christ at the heart of his ministry, and today, Christ remains our focus here. The best things are always those things that last.
Rob Settle- Providence Home Executive Director
You learn a lot about trusting God when you work in a ministry devoted to serving those striving to break the shackles of addiction. It’s an evil foe, one that doesn’t discriminate. Battling it takes 100% commitment, 100% of the time. It’s a journey impossible to take alone.
In my decade as executive director, I’ve seen that without God, sobriety most often is a temporary stop in a vulnerable man’s journey. But with Him, all things are possible and do last for a lifetime. You see examples of His work on these very pages.
Our Providence Home team is devoted to focusing on Christ in ministering to our men. But over the years, we’ve been awed by how God has used our men to minister to us. I experienced this profoundly during the lowest point of my life. It was the springtime of 2020 and my four-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, was fighting an aggressive cancer in her central nervous system. As everyone who has experienced the death of a child knows, it is the most excruciating experience. For my wife Sally and me, the despair was compounded by being utterly helpless in easing the pain of our son and beautiful daughter-in-law.
But just as I’ve seen time and again at Providence Home, God’s strength is unleashed in our weakness. When an addict comes to the end of himself and realizes he is completely hopeless, that’s when God rushes in.
In those days and months after Lucy’s death, I had to practice so often what I preach to our men: Take one minute, one day, at a time. Too often, tomorrow seems just too scary or painful to bear. That’s why God commands us to focus only on this day and let the future take care of itself.
God used the men living here at that time to remind me to lean hard into Him. Each man had their own painful stories that became testimony to me – tangible proof that God, in His perfect time, can and does plant peace where once there was only pain and regret. Sometimes, I learned, only the most broken can truly understand how it feels to be shattered. They shared their pain – and mine – and helped me heal.
Lucy is missed every day by those of us who adored her. But we thank God for her life and rejoice knowing she is home with Him and waiting for us, just as Jesus promised His faithful.
And as for me, I’m grateful for Providence Home and for the most unlikely people God used to bring me through the most painful time of my life.
Providence Home Quick Facts
1. Are you a homeless shelter?
No. Providence Home is a temporary home for men in transition – those coming out of prison, or healing from substance abuse or other traumas. Many do come to us homeless.
2. How many men are served?
We have a 60-bed facility and usually stay full. We provide access to healthcare as well as needed documents and help facilitate outside employment.
3. How does a man get referred?
Men come to us from prison and various social service agencies or right off the street. Every man is required to interview with our program director face to face.
4. How long can they stay?
The usual range is four-12 months, though it can be longer depending on the healing that needs to occur.
5. Are they locked in?
Absolutely not. Men who stay at Providence Home are required to be employed if able-bodied. The vast majority work during the day. They are required to be in their dorms at 10 o’clock every night. Missing at bed check can result in dismissal from the program.
6. What are the rules?
Besides being gainfully employed, men pay $100 a week towards their room and board which includes three meals a day and laundry service. Each man has one roommate. There is no loitering outside our campus. All are required to attend three chapel services as well as one NA/AA meeting on our campus weekly. They must remain drug and alcohol-free. A positive drug test results in immediate dismissal.
7. How is it funded?
We rely totally on the generosity of local businesses, individuals, and church groups. We stand in awe at the blessings provided to us through meals and provisions by a steady stream of community generosity. We do NOT receive any local or federal funding. We are committed to being Godly stewards of the resources provided to us.
8. When can they leave?
Residents are free to leave at any time. However, we greatly encourage each resident to meet a set criterion in order to “graduate” from the program. This includes six months of total sobriety, fiscal security (i.e., a bank account and funds to pay two months’ rent), restoration with family, a church home (when applicable) and other measurements for success.
9. Do you have to be a Christian to be here?
No. We are a Christ-centered program but certainly men of all faiths (ages 18 and up) are a beloved part of our Providence Home family.
Be sure to check out our July issue to read more about the men of Providence Home.
“When the Zenoni family recently shared that revelation, it felt like a love letter from God stretching across the decades. It was just another confirmation that God is faithful, and His timing is absolutely perfect.”
I had to practice so often what I preach to our men: Take one minute, one day, at a time. Too often, tomorrow seems just too scary or painful to bear.