My Sister’s House, a beacon of ‘humanity’ for women returning from prison, will hold ribbon cutting Friday

Bonita Simmons, executive director of Tried By Fire, embraces Vann Spivey, lead pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church, during an April 19 check presentation for My Sister’s House.


That’s the word Vann Spivey, lead pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church, uses to describe the mission of My Sister’s House, a new two-story home in New Bern that will serve as a lifeline for women recently released from prison. 

Spivey and other members of the church arrived at the nearly finished home at 524 Rountree St. Wednesday to present a donation check for $16,349 to Tried By Fire, Inc., the local nonprofit who has overseen the planning, fundraising and construction for the My Sister’s House project. 

“This is a huge example of humanity. There are some people who still believe in that,” said Bonita Simmons, Tried By Fire’s executive director. “They still believe that a person can get up again. And as the pastor said, we do believe in resurrection around here.”

To celebrate the completion of a project years in the making, Tried By Fire has invited the community to attend two events this week. The New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce will hold an official ribbon cutting ceremony at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 21. On Saturday, a dedication and open house will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the newly completed home will be offered both days.

My Sister’s House will provide temporary shelter for up to eight women who have been recently released from prison.

According to Deedra Durocher, Tried By Fire’s volunteer and resource coordinator, My Sister’s House will provide temporary shelter for up to eight women at one time after their release from prison. The women will live in a monitored environment at the house for 90-120 days.

During their stay, Tried by Fire staff will work with the tenants to help them identify educational opportunities and find employment. While the women will live at My Sister’s House rent free, they will be expected to put aside part of their incomes for future use once they find jobs. 

Durocher said the ultimate goal is to provide an environment where the women can begin rebuilding their lives and find permanent, affordable housing in a safe and supportive environment. 

My Sister’s House will serve a total of nine counties, including Craven, Jones and Pamlico. 

“The Craven County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to pre-screen women who are two to three months from being discharged to identify those who are most appropriate for this facility and who are most committed to their reentry journey,” Durcoher said. “They’ll also offer a per diem stipend for the first 30 days.”

Like any good resurrection story, the path that ultimately led to my Sister’s House was filled with more than a few setbacks and challenges. 

Tried By Fire’s original plan for the Rountree St. property called for the restoration of an 80-yr.-old, abandoned home on the site that was donated to the group in 2019 by Habitat for Humanity. When that project proved unworkable due to the home’s structural damage, Tried By Fire’s board of directors made the decision in 2021 to demolish it and build my Sister’s House from the ground up.   

The COVID-19 pandemic also slowed progress on the home, pushing back its scheduled completion date of last fall due to both volunteers and contractors falling ill. 

But the process has also been filled with numerous blessings, both Durocher and Simmons are quick to point out.

The 2,720 square feet house came with a total project cost of approximately $347,000, a cost that has been offset by numerous in-kind donations of appliances, cabinets, beds and other features offered by local businesses. Durocher said Creekside Cabinets, Tidewater Appliance, Hoover Custom Tops, and Carpet One have all been particularly generous with their donations.

The helping hand has kept Tried By Fire’s out of pocket expenses to only $275,000 for the project, which has been raised through grants and financial donations. It also means Tried By Fire “doesn’t owe a dime” on the house or furniture, Durocher said. 

“Dreams do come true,” Simmons added. “And when you allow others to help you with your dream it comes to fruition in a way you never could imagine.”

Durocher stressed that although only a few minor details remain before My Sister’s House is physically ready to occupy, the job of staffing the home is still ongoing. That reality will likely delay the arrival of the first tenants until June or July, she said.  

Tried by Fire is currently seeking staff with experience dealing with substance abuse, mental health, and physical and sexual trauma issues.

“We have a personnel committee that has come up with a job prescription for the key employee, which is going to be the program director,” Durocher explained. “After they’re in place they will help us hire the housing manager and then the part-time housing assistant so we can have 24-hour coverage.”

The downstairs area of My Sister’s House will feature a computer/conference room, staff suite, laundry room, bathroom, kitchen and community living room. The home’s four tenant bedrooms, which will accommodate two tenants each, are located on the second floor. 

A fenced area on the side of the house will include a picnic table, a grill and a swing set for tenants and visitors. 

Simmons said the ultimate goal of My Sister’s House is to provide a second chance to those who might otherwise be left on their own.

“My Sister’s House proves that we are a forgiving community,” Simmons commented. “We’ll be here when they come, and we’ll welcome them with open arms.”

By Todd Wetherington, co-editor. Send an email with questions or comments.