Jill of all trades

Posted on 16 April 2014

Jessica-7

Story by Ashley Johnson

Jessica Allen felt like she fell flat when she landed back in Bainbridge permanently and unexpected. After more than a decade of life in Nashville, Allen was headed for a fellowship overseas. A creative mind with an entrepreneurial spirit, Allen was ready for a challenge and the next big adventure at the beginning of 2013.

“God told me it was going to be an uncomfortable year and I was ready for that,” Allen said.

She sold her possessions and moved home to await her overseas departure in June. But in March, all those doors closed.

Allen, wondering if she had heard God incorrectly when he called her to go overseas, questioned what was next for her life. Living at home in Bainbridge for the first time since she graduated high school in 1994, Allen said she was disappointed.

“One of my friends asked me — what is more uncomfortable, living in Bainbridge or going overseas,” Allen said. She realized then that even though she had a passion for her hometown, this is what God was preparing her to be uncomfortable for.

But she did not sit idle for too long. In the same month she realized her plans changed, the Still Waters women’s shelter with Friends Ministries opened its doors and Allen was ready to serve.

Graduating with a degree in psychology from Valdosta State University in 1998, and multiple jobs working in mental health and women’s facilities, Allen was called to the cause.

“I think that when the shelter originally started, there was no action plan for treating those with mental illness,” Allen said. “There was no mental health programming in place and a high percentage of the women we see have those issues.”

Allen works with the women on a hands-on basis, helping to set goals, getting them external counseling outside the shelter and structuring their time.

While in Nashville, she also worked for a non-profit retailer, 10,000 Villages which sells artwork and goods from developing countries. All the workers are volunteers and this gave Allen and other volunteers at the women’s shelter the idea to create a sustainable project for Still Waters.

The Refinery, a candle-making business was born. The women in the shelter help create fragrances and candles they sell at local businesses, making a small income to help the shelter and teach the women about work and structure.

“Looking back I can see how God makes my past all work together for what I am doing now,” she said. “I have always been a Jill of all trades and I don’t want to do just one thing.”

She said God keeps her moving and on the go with new careers, projects and ideas because he knows her so well and wants to keep her interested.

Allen has many ideas and a passion for revitalizing downtown Bainbridge as well.

While she doesn’t know if one day she will be called again to go overseas, Allen said she wants to be part of a spark in downtown.

“I want to be part of the ignition for Bainbridge embracing change but still keeping its charm,” Allen said. “There will be other people that really lead the charge, but I want to be part of the spark.”

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