Continuing down a Path of Grace

Nathan Cobb | 315-4432 | @WaltonSunNate | nathan@waltonsun.com

Nearly 100 people gathered in Santa Rosa Beach on Tuesday to show support for a group of women set on redirecting their lives.

Path of Grace, a local rehabilitation program for women, recently opened its doors to the community for an open house to honor the women involved and showcase its recent additions to the South Walton site. Emotions were high between members of group — which have become like family — and visitors, sponsors and local officials who joined as well.

"I think this is awesome," said Andy Watkins, the inmate welfare programs manager for the Walton County Jail. "I really believe in this program and to see them being able to increase their capacity to be able to touch more people and take more women in and help make a difference in their lives, it's just fabulous."

Watkins said that he's know Eddie Mansfield, the program's managing director, for a few years, but that it wasn't until about a year ago that Mansfield started extending Path of Grace's efforts to the Walton County Jail.

Every week, members visit the jail to talk with inmates and swap experiences.

"The difference that I see, even them coming in during the week and providing an opportunity for some of these young ladies to open up and to share what they're going through, and the young ladies here being able to relate to them, I think it's great," Watkins said. "They do an awesome job."

DeFuniak Springs Mayor Bob Campbell said he's personally seen the program benefit his daughter, Kim Adkinson.

He added that the steadfast efforts within the program are a credit to its success, and that Path of Grace is here to stay.

"I'm amazed at the people in this community that have been big sponsors and donors in so many ways," Campbell said. "It gives these girls hope that people care about them."

Adkinson, who is the program's most recent graduate, said she's going to miss the Path of Grace campus, but plans to go back to school and transition into addiction counseling.

"I just really have a lot of hope, and I know I can do pretty much anything I want to," she said. "I thank God for (Path of Grace)."

A common theme during the open house was that not only had these women kicked their previous vices, but also found their faith along the way.

John Skiles, pastor of Impact Life Church, was the event's first speaker and highlighted the women's camaraderie and their ability to gain strength by joining with others fighting the same fight.

"(God) said the woman of Path of Grace are like lionesses, and they are the ones who fight, they are the ones who come together, they stand together, they are a pack," Skiles said.