I met Trudy Godwin, Executive Director of Renewed Hope Center in Slidell, Louisiana when I interviewed her husband Glyn. She also had a story of God’s Amazing Grace. In 1984, Trudy lived in the French Quarter and worked for Century Management, which managed five hotels in New Orleans. The family-owned company recognized her administrative ability, and she rose from desk clerk at the St. Louis Hotel to resident manager of the Prince Conti Hotel in four years.
At one point she worked the midnight shift at the St. Ann Hotel where A Chorus Line, Broadway’s longest running musical that played at the Sanger Theater, stayed during their tour. Many of the actors returned to the hotel high from the energy of their performance and unwound by hanging out in the lobby. One night four of them walked into the lobby after a show and began to harmonize between themselves singing Trudy happy birthday in the most beautiful voices she had ever heard. On another occasion, a Rolls Royce stopped in front of the St. Louis Hotel and Academy Award winning actor Ernest Borgnine stepped out of the car. Trudy was excited to check him into the quaint hotel. When she wasn’t working, she enjoyed the French Quarter nightlife and networking friendships associated with the hospitality industry. However, the exciting job, money and fancy corvette did not satisfy the growing emptiness she often felt.
“I worked all day and on weekends spent time at the local hang outs, but that lifestyle got old quick,” said Trudy. “I remember walking into barrooms and seeing the same old people in the same old places and thinking how empty life felt.” One night the emptiness overwhelmed her. Standing in the living room of her home, she cried out with a loud voice, “I hate my life. I wish I had another life.”
One day, a Christian choir who had come to New Orleans to perform at local churches checked into the Prince Conti hotel. Trudy studied the joy on the faces of the teenagers with their Bibles tucked under their arms. When the choir checked out of the hotel, Trudy and a hotel maid were the only two people in the lobby. The choir director gathered the young people together, arranged them as though they were performing for a huge audience and sang “Amazing Grace” to Trudy and the maid. That simple act of Christian love toward two ordinary people planted a seed of salvation in her heart.
Months later, when a friend invited her to Berean Bible Church, her heart was prepared to receive the gospel message. The visiting evangelist asked the congregation to raise their hand if they wanted to be sure they would go to heaven. “I remember raising my hand,” said Trudy, “and I left it up after the minister said we could put our hands down. I was ready for Jesus in my life. After the service, he shared the plan of salvation and prayed with me. I never dreamed God would answer my prayer for a different life, but he did.”
Shortly after her salvation, Century Management decided to sell the Prince Conti Hotel. Trudy took a sabbatical and lived on her savings while she studied the Bible to learn about her new relationship with Jesus. She said, “I didn’t want anything to do with my old life anymore. I couldn’t get enough of being involved in the things of God.”
Zealous about her newfound faith, Trudy invited her cousin, who attended Faith Church in New Orleans east and her brother, who had abandoned his faith, to Berean Bible Church. At the conclusion of the service, her cousin suggested they visit Faith Church the following Sunday. Trudy fell in love with the Faith Church family and remained a member for over twenty-five years.
“God did above and beyond all I could ask or think. He visited not only me, but my whole family. My brother rededicated his life to Christ. I was so excited about my faith my parents grew concerned. They came to the church to see if I was involved in a cult and while there, they accepted Christ as their savior. Then my other brother and his wife and kids visited Faith Church. They experienced the presence of God in a deeper way and began to attend regularly as well. It was a very exciting time for us as we grew in our faith and learned more about our loving Lord.”
When Jackie Dantin, Executive Director of Community Christian Concern (CCC) made known her need for volunteers, Trudy’s aunt encouraged her to get involved. CCC was an outreach committed to helping the poor and homeless through advocacy and referral, food and clothing services, transitional housing, life skills and job readiness courses. Trudy learned CCC needed a newsletter and volunteered to produce one even though she didn’t know what she was doing. She made herself available to do whatever was needed.
“There is nothing like serving in ministry. It was so awesome to witness how God reached out to people, how he touched their lives, and provided miracles for them. I didn’t want to get a regular job ever again.” Trudy volunteered for the ministry until her savings dwindled, then left CCC for short periods to work or accepted jobs that enabled her the flexibility to remain active in ministry.
Trudy experienced another dramatic change when she accepted an invitation to travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma with Glyn Godwin, an attorney and board member of CCC, where he needed to conduct a deposition. Before they left Tulsa, Glyn encouraged Trudy to obtain an application for admission to Oral Roberts University (ORU). On the way back to New Orleans, Glyn said, “Trudy, you need to go to college, and this is the college you need to attend.”
Trudy was the only one in her family to graduate from high school but not without difficulty. She always had a hunger for education and enrolled at the University of New Orleans while working for the hotel, but found the classes difficult and quit. Tears rolled down her cheeks, “I’m just not smart enough for college.” Something about Glyn’s persistent prodding encouraged her to try again.
Trudy submitted the application but didn’t see college in her future. She was amazed when she received a letter of acceptance. “The two years I spent at ORU, were the best years of my life,” she said. “I grew in my relationship with God, and realized that I wasn’t dumb. I just needed the right support system. Glyn’s encouragement taught me to believe in myself. By the end of my second year at college, Glyn and I decided we were becoming more than friends. I returned to New Orleans to marry him and complete my education through correspondence courses.”
CCC had flourished in Trudy’s absence. She returned to the ministry as an employee and when the Director resigned in 1994, Trudy became the new Executive Director. After eleven years of directing the ministry that had touched so many lives, Hurricane Katrina brought Trudy’s time at CCC to a close. Trudy and Glyn returned to Slidell after evacuating to discover their only possessions were the ones they had taken with them.
“When we returned to Slidell, CCC became wherever I was. If I heard of a need standing in line at the grocery, I sought to help. With the staff scattered and limited resources available it was increasingly difficult to function. Glyn’s practice in New Orleans East was gone. I resigned as executive director, so Glyn and I could regroup. We moved several times before settling in Slidell. Glyn reopened his practice and I concentrated on finishing my college education.”
The same week Trudy took her final test to obtain her Bachelor of Science degree in Christian Care and Counseling from ORU, she received a phone call from a colleague at Operation Blessing International requesting her assistance. Two years had elapsed since she resigned CCC, and she was ready for a new challenge. March 2008 Trudy collaborated with Operation Blessing to open Renewed Hope Center in Slidell, Louisiana.
Renewed Hope Center was established to “equip the mind, heal the heart, and renew the spirit.” Hundreds of people received free services during its first year of operation that included a Jobs for Life Program, career development, computer lab, career clothing provision for jobs and interviews, adult literacy and money management. The ministry expanded the following year to include a teen outreach career development program, a women’s support group, faith-based counseling, mental health counseling and advocacy and referral services. The services of Renewed Hope Center are designed to complement those available in other community service organizations operating in the Slidell area.
“One of the most important things we do is let people know they are not alone and that we will walk with them for however long they need us. We may not have all the answers, but we know the God who does, and through prayer nothing is impossible.”
Renewed Hope Center is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can contact Trudy at 985-201-8390 or e-mail trudy.rhc.@charter.net for more information or to make an appointment. If you would like to be on Renewed Hope Center’s email list to receive notification of upcoming events please send Trudy your email address.