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Clara Stephens opens nonprofit for women in Gainesville
Women for Christ International Foundation to help ladies through education, training and mentorship
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Clara Stephens has opened a retail storefront ministry to serve women through employment skills training and counseling. The thrift store is at 675 EE Butler Parkway in Gainesville.

Women for Christ International Foundation Inc.
What: A pastoral counseling service and thrift store to support those in need
Where: 675 EE Butler Parkway SE, Suite G, Gainesville
More info: 678-971-4999, 678-231-4460, www.wfcif.org, www.facebook.com/WFCIF/, info.wfcif@gmail.com

Clara Stephens has a way of speaking that immediately catches your attention and enraptures your mind. It’s strong in a soft and meditative kind of way, not loud or bombastic or pressing.

And with her speech, she commanded the focus of an entire room of nonprofit and civic leaders one evening in January. They were all gathered for a roundtable discussion of why they do what they do to serve others as part of a weeklong series of events celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

“I was lonely,” Stephens said by way of introduction.

But not anymore. With the spirit of the Lord residing in her heart, she has devoted her life to helping women in need.

And that began with sharing her story as a child in Nigeria, escaping the lure of drugs that ensnared her brothers, later marrying a good man and eventually relocating to America to raise a family of her own.

“My goal is to reach out and see what we can do for you,” Stephens said later.

That’s where we find her today.

“This is my comeback,” the 50-year-old Gainesville woman said.

Stephens, educated at Liberty University, recently opened the Women for Christ International Foundation Inc., a nonprofit counseling practice and thrift store on EE Butler Parkway in Gainesville in a retail shopping center adjacent to the Chattahoochee Bank of Georgia. With it, Stephens wants to help women achieve their full potential through education, business networking, financial literacy and computer training courses, as well as mentorship. She provides free Bibles, a clothing bank to help the homeless and aid for victims of domestic violence. And “Remember: It’s all by God’s grace alone” serves as a kind of mission statement for her practice.

And stemming from her work as a chaplain at the North Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville and Braselton, Stephens provides pastoral care and family counseling to those in need.

“That goes a long way,” she said. “I have a strong desire to see addiction end in families.”

She credits many Gainesville residents for holding “my hand initially when I came (here),” including the Rev. LC Teasley, Millie Miller, Wander Freeman, Annette Woods, Barbara Jackson and Rose Johnson, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club civil rights organization. And, of course, the light of the Lord.

They think highly of her, too.

“Clara has such a deep and abiding commitment for the care of women, girls and families,” Johnson said. “Her compassion and willingness to bring hope and restoration to those in need of support is grounded in her own life struggles growing up as a young girl in Africa. She is very well-equipped with a refreshing zeal to serve humanity.”

Stephens recounts her trials, tribulations and successes of her life in two books.

In “I am not forgotten, God knows my name,” she lays bare the many years that brought her to this moment with candidness and insight. From her time in Nigeria to her marriage to the man God chose for her, Stephens weaves a narrative peppered with Bible verses and the kind of honesty that makes her relatable  to all who struggle and overcome.

In one passage, she sums up her journey to America and the dawn of her counseling practice.

“Sometimes when driving somewhere, we may get to a point where it becomes suddenly clear that we are traveling down the wrong road. When that happens, all we have to do is turn around and retrace our steps to see where we missed it or perhaps ask someone for better directions.

“However, the road to destiny is very different. It may seem as if we’re on the wrong track because the road comes with painful twists and turns. We may even question God’s wisdom in allowing us to go that way. Often times, however, it turns out that the road we loathe most often (you know, the one with no shortcuts) is our must-travel route.”

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