The Sophie House Lends a Hand

By Lisa Schaffner | April 22nd, 2019

When moms and other single women hit hard times


Imagine hitting a roadblock in your life. You have to pay the rent and pay the electric bill, but there’s no money. You aren’t sure how to make ends meet, and you have nowhere to turn. There’s no one to ask for help, and, adding to the anxiety, you have two young children. Where do you turn? For many, the answer is The Sophie House.

The Sophie House provides housing and support for women with kids and single women who are in crisis. “We are not a safe house,” Rebecca Blackwell, executive director at The Sophie House, points out. “We are mainly there for someone who has hit a bump in the road, and they’re off course. We provide a support system for those who have lost theirs or don’t have one.”

Each month the Glen Allen-based nonprofit receives between 80 and 100 calls for assistance. In fact, the night I talked to Blackwell, she was answering a potential client who’d reached out to her on Facebook. The requests for help come in many forms. “Last night someone showed up on the doorstep,” says Blackwell. “Her husband left her back in December, and he was the main financial provider for the family. This mother is doing everything she can to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on.”

The assistance The Sophie House provides includes financial counseling, housing assistance, food from the nonprofit’s food pantry or a check to help pay the utilities or mortgage.

Those seeking assistance have one thing in common: they never expected to be in this situation. Nancy Smith is one of those people. Smith (not her real name because she’s ashamed friends and former co-workers will learn of her setback) explains her story, sort of a “riches to rags” tale: “I went to school abroad. Received a business degree. I led a life of privilege,” Smith ruefully describes. “I lost a lot of money in the stock market, which brought me down quite a bit. I found myself needing to pay bills, and I wasn’t bringing in enough money with my grocery store job. I panicked.”

The Sophie House helped Smith with a light bill and paying rent. She also visited the organization’s food pantry. “If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know what I would have done,” says the former client who’s now in her mid-60s and back on her feet financially. The Sophie House helped Smith for a little over a year at a time when Smith had nowhere to turn.

“I had no one to help me,” she recalls.


The founder of The Sophie House knows those feelings well. Driving home to Richmond in 2006 after finding herself suddenly single with children to care for, Kimberly Braine-Tillman came up with the idea for an organization that gives a helping hand to women in need like her, an organization that provides: “Strength & Salvation, Optimism, Perseverance & Potential, Hope & Healing, Integrity, and Education & Encouragement.” The Sophie House was born.

The nonprofit has only two full-time paid staff members, which means volunteers are crucial. “If you have a special skill like queen of couponing or scrapbooking, you could lead a class for our clients as part of our monthly programs,” suggests Blackwell, who has led the organization since 2016. “We especially need volunteers at the community center; that’s where we meet with clients and where the food pantry is located on site. We’re totally dependent on volunteers to keep us doing the good work we’re called to do” – a calling that has The Sophie House Giving Back in Central Virginia and making a difference!


Volunteer in the food pantry, help at or attend a fundraising event, donate food pantry items such as canned goods and toiletries, or make a tax-deductible financial donation. Visit the website or call 804-658-5214 for opportunities to volunteer or donate.

Participate in The Sophie House 5K, May 18, 8 a.m. to noon, Deep Run High School

The Sophie House Community Center, 4771 Shady Grove Road, Glen Allen

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