With softball practice underway, Tina Ledbetter said 'no thanks'.

“Because I’m no good," she smiled, sitting at a picnic table a few feet from where a group of people practiced.

She doesn't care so much for softball. She does, however, care a lot for this team. 

“We have a lot of fun," she laughed.

It hasn't always been smiles for Tina. She felt caged by her struggles when she entered a program at the Nashville Rescue Mission. 

“I went there in 2015 due to a drug addiction," she said. “Basically, the only thing I had left in my life was God.”

Believing a life can be changed, Tina's now the house manager for the women's side of the Next Step for Life transitional housing program in Cookeville. 

“Some of the ladies are coming out of drug addiction," she explained. "Some are from abusive relationships, some depression, anxiety.”

Through helping them play in a sports league and make memories, Tina helps the women bond as a team. 

“We are a family," she smiled.

Tina learned how much of a family they are in the early hours of one morning. 

Tina got an alert on her phone. Tornado in Putnam County. 

“The girls is what went through my head," she said. "I had five girls who needed me to get them up.”

Tina ran downstairs, woke all the women up, and told them to get in the closet now. They huddled in the dark. 

“By the time we got in the closet, we could all hear the roof just being ripped off," said program participant Liz Scardino. "It was just one of the loudest noises I've ever heard. You can't mimic a sound like that. I was terrified most of the time."

“We were only in there five or ten seconds, glass started shattering," added program participant Kristen Murdock. 

“We were praying," said Tina. "Just God, please take care of us.”

“This was a beautiful, beautiful home," Tina continued, walking up the steps to the women's house. 

Today, the house is destroyed. 

“When I came out and seen it, that’s when it really hit me," Tina said. "We could have easily been some of the victims who lost their lives. I just feel like it was God telling me to get up. It’s just a God thing, y’know. It’s just a God thing.”

Through there's little left of the house that stood around them, what hasn't been destroyed are deep, important friendships. 

“Oh, I love them very, very much," said Tina. "I say they’re my girls. Sometimes when you’re coming out of addiction, you don’t feel like you’re worth anything or that you’re not pretty. I tell them all the time, 'you’re my babies, and I don’t have any ugly babies.' I love them.”

“I’m just so glad she cared enough to be there for us," said Liz. “It’s a blessing. Words can’t express the gratitude I have for her.”

Tina said she's learned, whether it's facing an addiction or rebuilding a whole community from destruction, you take it one step, then another. There's no doubt it's so much easier when it take it on with a team.

 

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