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Several years after she finished her rehab, Bowman started the nonprofit that helps families like hers and also feeds about 3,000 families per month.

She credits Aretha Simons, now the nonprofit’s vice president, for helping her get back on the right track. Simons worked at the Apopka-area center and made sure to hug and pray with Bowman and always let her know she cared.

Now the two make sure Santa and Mrs. Claus come to visit each year.

“It’s good because on one hand, you see…the joy on their children’s face,” Simons said. “I’ve seen one time where a kid was crying because he wanted to stay here [with his mom].”

Georgia Cothran, 33, graduated from the program in August and said she loves coming back to be a positive example for the women living there.

In February, she enrolled after struggling with years of heroin and opioid addiction and was scared about what her future had in store. But by August she graduated with a full-time job and plans to attend college, and found Bowman, who believed in her and keeps her involved with One Heart For Women and Children’s efforts.

“I am not the same person that I was when I came into this program,” said Cothran, who starts business classes at Valencia College in January. “I’m driving again…I’m trusted today, I’m loved today.”

Bowman hoped the women living there now could feel her organization’s love Sunday.

“The gift we get is we get to see everybody laughing together and the families getting to see their mom…,” Bowman said.

Have a news tip? You can call Ryan at 407-420-5002, email him at rygillespie@orlandosentinel.com, follow him on Twitter @byryangillespie and like his coverage on Facebook @byryangillespie.

One Comments

  • Ella Johnson 04 / 01 / 2018 Reply

    Great job! God bless you Mayor Aretha!

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