CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Long before social distancing and mask-wearing was commonplace, many people were battling drug addiction, but thanks to the kind heart of one of our Remarkable Woman nominees, they don’t have to face that crisis alone.
Cheryl Laws is the founder of Cafe Appalachia. Inside, one thing separates the employees from your average restaurant. The women behind the counter are recovering from substance abuse disorder.
“It’s a social enterprise for the women. They train here for the job skills,” said Laws.
Autumn McCraw was one of those girls. Substance abuse disorder took her to rock bottom. “I’m a survivor of human trafficking; I am just one of those kind of addicts that was living on the streets.” McCraw found herself in jail multiple times. She even lost custody of her teenage daughter.
But those days are nothing but a bad memory now. McCraw says finding Cafe Appalachia was divine intervention. “I remember walking in this building and it was so beautiful like it just took my breath away and that very instant, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be, God was leading my path God was leading me here for whatever reason and I just knew it.”
Laws may have dodged the bullet that is addiction, but her experience helped her relate to the women who weren’t so lucky. “As I did some soul-searching on my own, I realized I had a problem. I did drugs when I was younger and never took my whole life.”
McCraw believes Laws is a lifesaver. “She’s not just saving lives, she’s improving the quality of the saved lives.”
Laws love and compassion for those fallen on hard times reaches beyond the walls of Cafe Appalachia. She’s also credited with creating Pollen8, a program focused on the reintegration of women in recovery back into society.
She’s also the CEO of Appalachian Behavioral Health Care, a 24/7 supervised residential facility providing treatment for women with 30 beds.
“They’ll live there and it’s a 6-month program and then while they’re in that program they’ll get treatment for the underlying cause of addiction, so their childhood trauma, so then we put them at week six they start a training program and that’s where their social enterprising comes into play.”
Watch below as 13 News Anchor Merrily McAuliffe announces Cheryl Laws as our 2021 “Remarkable Woman”.
What’s truly exceptional about Laws is her relentless determination to help those who feel abandoned by the rest of the world and have nowhere else to turn.
In fact, McCraw now works for the ‘West Virginia Alliance of Recovery Residences,’ where she helps determine if recovery services are adequate enough for those seeking treatment.
“She takes the time to see what is within people’s hearts she has affected change and not just my life but many many other women’s lives.”