Feature Story, November 2018

Ruth Addison’s Total Woman Boutique is a Family Affair

Beauty Inside and Out

Ruth Addison Helps Women Reclaim Their Feminine Side

Granddaughter Amy Pinell leads a monthly workshop for customers. At the October Look Good, Feel Better class, Amy demonstrates scarf-typing techniques and offers makeup tips. She loves her work, she says, because it gives women confidence in their femininity again.
Granddaughter Amy Pinell leads a monthly workshop for customers. At the October Look Good, Feel Better class, Amy demonstrates scarf-typing techniques and offers makeup tips. She loves her work, she says, because it gives women confidence in their femininity again.
Granddaughter Amy Pinell, right, leads a monthly workshop for customers. At the October Look Good, Feel Better class, Amy demonstrates scarf-tying techniques and offers makeup tips. She loves her work, she says, because it gives women confidence in their femininity agin.

Over the years, Ruth Addison has held a lot of hands and wiped away a lot of tears. As owner of Total Woman Boutique, she has devoted her professional and personal life to helping women recover from breast cancer. She understands the fear, pain, loss and and frustration that women experience after a mastectomy or chemotherapy treatments.

“I care about my customers,” Addison said. “I care about the way they feel and what they are going through.”

Anyone who survives cancer is happy to be alive, but for women who have lost their hair, or one or both breasts, the transition is harder. Their experience affects their womanhood and many say they don’t feel “whole.” It was this sentiment that led Addison to name her store “Total Woman.”

Addison, now 80, says that as a young woman, she wanted to be a nurse. Unfortunately, after saving her money and getting accepted to nursing school, she got sick and had to drop out. “I guess God had other plans for me,” she said. “I ended up working for an orthotics company, fitting people with prosthetics and artificial limbs. I actually loved it. I realized it was just another form of nursing.”

After 14 years, Addison decided to open her own business and focus on women who had undergone mastectomies. “It was 1982 and no one else in Baton Rouge was selling what we called ‘breast forms’ at that time. I wanted to create a bright, cheery atmosphere because I knew how hard it was for a lot of women to come to a store like mine.”

Addison started her business on a shoestring, she says, but got a lot of help from Dr. Robert Elliott, a breast surgeon who referred many of his patients to her. “I couldn’t have succeeded without his help,” she said. “I had never managed anything but a household, but I was determined. And one thing about me … when I set my mind to something, I’m going to accomplish it. It has been a struggle at times, but always a passion. That makes the struggle a lot easier.”

There were times when Addison didn’t think she’d make it. “So many times, I’d say, ‘God, I need your help!’ and somehow, my prayers were always answered, the problem was always solved, God always came through.”

Insurance was a big concern in the early days, Addison said. At one time, one of the biggest insurers in our state would only provide coverage for one bra a year. “One bra!” Addison said. “So I went to their corporate office and complained. And it was all men there. And I said, ‘How would you gentlemen like to get only one pair of underwear a year?’ They didn’t know what to think! Well, it didn’t happen that day, but within a few months, the coverage was doubled to 2 bras a year, and now, women can get insurance coverage for 6 bras a year. I’ve had to jump through hoops sometimes to get reimbursed, but I know how much it means to my customers.”

Eventually, Addison’s daughter Sherri Spillman joined her in the business, and in time, became general manager. She also keeps up with new inventory, insurance changes, credentialing and other issues. “I’ve been here for 30 years now,” Spillman said. “I certainly didn’t ever think I’d go into any kind of retail. I was never a good salesman. As a kid, I couldn’t sell a bar of World’s Finest chocolate! But this is different. We’re helping women at a difficult time in their lives, so it’s a very rewarding job.

Sherri’s daughter Amy Pinell also works at Total Woman. She is a cosmetologist talented in makeup and hair (wig) styling. “Amy was just 3 weeks old when I started working here,” Spillman said. “When she was a very little girl, she helped a customer choose a pair of earrings and the woman gave her a tip. She was so excited. I think we knew then that Amy would also be part of Total Woman someday.”

Whereas the store once focused on prosthetics and bras, Total Woman Boutique now sells a wide variety of items, including swimwear, foundation garments, hats, turbans, jewelry, lotions and more. Many breast cancer survivors develop a condition called lymphedema and must wear compression sleeves. When Addison started carrying the sleeves, she decided to add compression stockings to her inventory, creating a male clientele for Total Woman. “Most of the men buy compression stockings for blood clots, vein problems and poor circulation,” she said.

What makes her shop different from others is the experience and knowledge Addison brings to her work. She is a certified and licensed mastectomy fitter since 1960, and the shop is accredited through the American Board of Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics. Customers benefit from those credentials.

“All of our customers receive very special attention,” Addison said. “We even have a seamstress on staff. When a customer walks out of here, they leave with top-quality products that are customized for them — items that fit correctly for size, shape and comfort.”
Not surprisingly, Addison builds relationships with her customers, often when they are most vulnerable. “When I fit a customer for a new prosthetic and bra, I have her face me with her back to the full-length mirror in the fitting room. After I’m finished, I let her turn around and look at herself. For a lot of women, it’s the first time they’ve seen their body look normal again since before their cancer. I can’t describe how grateful they are and what a smile it brings to their faces. It’s that moment that always brings me joy.”

Addison says she isn’t planning to retire any time soon. She continues to work six days a week and she stays current on news and information relevant to her industry. She has won many awards during her career, including two just last year — a lifetime achievement award from Women’s Wellness Magazine, and another from the American Academy of Breast Cancer Professionals. Addison also works closely with the American Cancer Society, Cancer Society of Greater Baton Rouge, local breast cancer support groups and local hospitals.

Her work developed into a ministry of sorts in 2001, when she went to Cuba and did fittings for 400 women. In 2012, a church friend asked Addison to go with her to Colombia and do some fittings for women there. That trip was unforgettable, Addison said, but it became especially important to her daughter — Spillman eventually joined the team of Baltimore physician Armando Sardi, who makes the trip twice a year.

“I’m so fortunate to have my daughter and my granddaughter with me,” Addison said. “We all love what we do. You can’t help but enjoy it when you can make someone feel good about themselves, when you can help a woman feel truly beautiful inside and out. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Total Woman Boutique is located at 9244 Florida Blvd., Suite C. For more information, call (225) 924-4531.

Sherri Spillman, right, has worked with her mother for 30 years and is general manager of the shop. A trip to Colombia in 2012 to help breast cancer survivors has become a ministry for Spillman, who has joined the team of Baltimore physician Armando Sardi.
Granddaughter Amy Pinell leads a monthly workshop for customers. At the October Look Good, Feel Better class, Amy demonstrates scarf-typing techniques and offers makeup tips. She loves her work, she says, because it gives women confidence in their femininity again.
In the fitting room, customers often leave inspirational notes for other women.
Ruth Addison has won many awards over the years, including these two in just the past year
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Faith Life, March 2018

Celebrate Recovery – Overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits

Celebrate Recovery

Overcoming hurts, hang-ups and habits

by James Haase

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.” — 2 Corinthians 5:17

With a foundation firmly established in the Bible, Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step program that offers participants a clear path to salvation — bringing hope, freedom, sobriety, and healing from whatever addictions or behaviors are controlling their lives.

Now in more than 30,000 churches, CR has changed the lives of thousands of people and reconciled them to God. James “Jimmy” Haase is one of them and he gladly shares his testimony:

“I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. By following Him, I’ve been able to overcome a past of alcoholism, depression and drug abuse. I am

currently struggling with perfectionism, self-worth and control. I was born to a teenage girl and never met my biological father. I grew up in a blended family where I never really felt accepted. I had a stepfather, stepbrother, stepsister and other step-relatives, but I felt like an outsider.

When I was a teenager, I hung out with my friends smoking pot and drinking alcohol nearly every day. What started off as a good time eventually became more than a daily habit. It was what I lived for. Every moment was spent either using or looking for something to use.

I started being careless with other areas of my life, too. By 1999, I had been arrested several times on drug and/or alcohol-related charges, and was ultimately sentenced to six months in the EBR Parish Prison. Over the next decade, I had periods of highs and lows. By 2009, my whole world was spiraling out of control and I had no idea what to do.

The DNA of the CR Ministry

  • Christ is the one and only Higher Power. The program is a Christ-centered ministry.
  • The Bible* and CR curriculum consists of specific publications, including The Leader’s Guide, The Journey Begins, CR In a Box, Testimonies to Go, Life’s Healing Choices, and several others.
  • The ministry is “group based.” All groups are gender-specific and “The Five Small Group Guidelines” are implemented and followed every time.
  • There are no online groups; face-to-face meetings only. No lessons may be posted to Facebook, Youtube, Vimeo or any other public forum.
  • Groups are expected to be accountable to Christ, the local church, and the CR model.
  • CR is a ministry of the local church, so it does not try to dictate any doctrine or policy.

I was majorly depressed, and found my “god” 12 ounces at a time or through various narcotics. Things never got better, but seemingly worse. After two DUIs in less than two years, I lost my driver’s license, then my job, then my home. Shattered and broken, I fell further into alcoholism, substance abuse and depression.

A friend was attending First Baptist Church at Addis, so I began to tag along. It wasn’t too long that I walked down the aisle and accepted Christ as my Savior and was baptized. I continued to struggle with alcohol and drugs, but I was attending every church activity and event possible throughout the week. From a men’s group,

I learned the importance of accountability and allowing others to speak truth into my life. I was ultimately convinced by the Holy Spirit to lay down all my self-will and turn it over to Christ, who freed me from my addictions. Christ is my Lord!

For over 20 years, I struggled with alcoholism, drug abuse and depression. Today, only by His grace, can I now, celebrate recovery!

BRCLM Image James Hasse and Family
James Haase, right, with his wife Jennifer and their children Wesley, Olivia and Sophia

I have gained an education in the field of addiction recovery and worked for two years as an addiction counselor. I have learned that the key to life in recovery is balancing emotional, physical, mental, relational and spiritual health.

Today, I am blessed with a beautiful family that includes my wife and three wonderful kids. I am a locksmith by profession and I volunteer as a minister, serving at the Church at Addis as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, Director of Growth Group, and Director of Men’s Recovery Support.

To God be the glory!”

There are many Celebrate Recovery programs at local churches. For details, call Haase at (225) 218-5630 or email him at JamesHaase@churchataddis.com. You can also learn more at celebraterecovery.com.

Baton Rouge Christian Life MAGAZINE


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Feature Story, June 2016

Metanoia Manor: A Journey of Change

by Krista Bordelon
Breaking ground at Metanoia Manor at an undisclosed location .
Breaking ground at Metanoia Manor at an undisclosed location .

The bus was filled, the police escort in place, and the location secure. The elite gathering of some of the biggest names in Louisiana politics, law enforcement, business and church culture was not about bragging rights, but about addressing a devastating need right here in our city. A necessity to band together to fight one of the largest problems in our own backyard: human sex trafficking.

Recently elected Louisiana state Gov. John Bel Edwards was one of several to take the podium during the groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of Metanoia Manor. It may seem odd to see an elected government official standing arm-in-arm with a man of the faith, but the importance and strength of such a partnership was evident. It was a sentiment strongly supported by all in attendance, including District Attorney Hillar Moore who says, “There is no doubt how necessary this is.”

Edwards stressed this point saying, “This is an example of how the state can partner with the faith-based community to make a difference in the lives of so many people.” He continued his speech emphasizing that the majority of the victims of human trafficking are our most vulnerable citizens. “These children are being used as objects, most often not by strangers, but by [those they know]. It’s an unfathomable act happening right here where we raise our families. We have to have facilities like this. This program is needed. Our children need us to stand up and protect them. Many times we talk about how our future is all about our children, and it’s true, but we can’t just say that and not act. I’m very proud of this partnership. Getting this far has not been easy; there are lots of roadblocks out there. I want you to know how proud I am that the state government is not going to be one of those roadblocks.” In a private conversation following the speech, he said he wanted to stress to the faith-based community just how important it is to join forces and work together to support programs like these in our city.

Sen. Ronnie Johns, who is also a board member of Metanoia Inc., says the legislature strongly supports the endeavors of the 501(c)(3) organization in opening Metanoia Manor – a safe and secure facility for juvenile survivors of human sex trafficking – right here in Baton Rouge. In fact, legislation passed allowing the privately funded project to move forward was just one of many legislative acts made over the years to place Baton Rouge as a leader in the movement against human trafficking.

The list of the Metanoia board of directors alone speaks to the importance of this cause and the strength of the fight against human trafficking in Baton Rouge. The senator is joined by Metanoia founder father Jeff Bayhi of St. John’s Catholic Church and Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church, Lt. Chad Gremillion of the Louisiana State Police Department, Sharon Pol executive director of Baton Rouge Children’s Advocacy Center, attorney George Bayhi, the Rev. Leo Cyrus of New Hope Baptist Church, Michael McDuff of the Louisiana State Contractor’s Board, David Ferris from the Louisiana Attorney General’s High Tech Crimes Unit, Bobby Gaston from the Louisiana Sheriffs Association, Sheriff Sid Gautreaux, attorney Katherine Green, Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Gail Grover, and Dr. Roberta Vicari of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.

The home will be run and the rescued girls will be nurtured by nuns from around the world who are uniquely qualified for this monumental task.
The home will be run and the rescued girls will be nurtured by nuns from around the world who are uniquely qualified for this monumental task.

The issue of human trafficking may be a big one, but Louisiana is willing to put its big guns into the battle against it. In fact, this has not just been an issue for the current governor. Louisiana State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson began speaking with former Gov. Bobby Jindal about making this a top priority here in Louisiana, and together they made sure the issue did not go unaddressed. In the past several years there have been more than 550 confirmed human trafficking cases in Louisiana. “They’re from all over. Right here in Baton Rouge, right here in New Orleans, in Alexandria, in Lafayette, in Lake Charles, and Shreveport, and Monroe and all the points in between. This is absolutely necessary for the victims who have nowhere to go,” Edmonson says. Lt. Chad Gremillion, who has just recently seen the rescue of two victims, one in Shreveport and one in New Orleans, wholeheartedly agrees.

In 2014, legislation passed that helped in training law enforcement to identify victims and protect them by asking the right questions and knowing the red flags. Training them in making a “rescue” instead of simply making an arrest. Sister Eugenia Bonetti, an Italian nun and coordinator of the Counter-Trafficking Office for Women and Children, played a large role in raising awareness of the issues by sharing her expertise – that spans across two decades and around the globe – with the legislators. In fact, it was a trip to Rome and Sister Eugenia that emboldened the vision of Metanoia Manor in Bayhi.

While in Rome in 2002-2003 for the television show he produces for a station out of Boston, Bayhi was introduced to Sister Eugenia by a friend, who at the time was serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Sister Eugenia is in charge of 250 nuns around the world who focus on the rescue of victims of human trafficking, as well as focusing on helping the Catholic Church provide better pastoral care for women forced into prostitution. Additionally, she appeared in the documentary “Not My Life,” was included in the Inside the Vatican “Top 10 People of 2007” list and won the International Women of Courage Award and the European Citizens’ Prize (as found on Wikipedia).

So when Bayhi led a small group of eight to Rome to investigate the possibilities of opening a facility for juvenile female victims of sex trafficking, she was the obvious choice as a “guide” through the world of human trafficking. Bayhi, Bobby Gaston, Ph. D., Suzan Gaston, Ph. D., Sen. Ronnie Johns, the Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood, Rebeccah Wood, Col. Mike Edmonson and Suzanne Edmonson spent their time in the fall of 2014 at the Vatican witnessing and participating first hand in the world they were about to embark on right here in our city.

For years, Bayhi observed what he perceived to be voluntary prostitution in Italy, but Sister Eugenia helped open his eyes to the dark truth of the sex industry. “I feel strongly that someone needs to make up for the sins of men. Men have made this mess, and men don’t need to sit by and let women clean up the mess we’ve made,” Bayhi says. He is quick to point out that this is not about sex. Human trafficking is a dark aspect of living in a culture that has so devalued human life that we view other humans only in terms of profit, pleasure or possession.

From the left: The Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood and wife Becky, Father Jeff Bayhi, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Sen. Ronnie Johns, Bobby Gaston, PhD., and Suzan Gaston, PhD. Colonel Mike Edmonson, Superintendent of the State Police and wife, Suzanne Edmonson were not able to attend, but they were members of "The Group of Eight."
From the left: The Rev. Dr. Rodney Wood and wife Becky, Father Jeff Bayhi, Gov. John Bel Edwards, Sen. Ronnie Johns, Bobby Gaston, PhD., and Suzan Gaston, PhD. Colonel Mike Edmonson, Superintendent of the State Police and wife, Suzanne Edmonson were not able to attend, but they were members of “The Group of Eight.”

He goes on to explain, “When it’s not this it will be something else. What’s next? Will we be paying others to abort their children so we can sell their parts instead of having them pay us? This is our culture; there will always be something to fight. God always leads us where we never intended to go.” He says that asking, “Why?” is the wrong question. Instead we need to be asking “What?” and we just need to do it. “I grew up in a stable, loving Lebanese family [right here in Baton Rouge]. I cannot even imagine people being used in this way,” Bayhi says. “But I bear the responsibility for other men who, for their own selfish pleasures, engaged in this. We have to address it. What do we need to do to rectify this?”

Many in our state were introduced to the issue of human sex trafficking in our city through the efforts of another local nonprofit that focuses on these issues in our state, Trafficking Hope Louisiana. Through immense community support they launched a widespread awareness campaign and opened the first rehabilitation facility of its kind in our area for adult female victims, but the need is still greater than anything being met at this point.

“It is important that our community and state provide a loving home for girls under the age of 18 because there is nothing like this in Louisiana, or in the south for that matter. It is important that the private sector become involved through donations because the state of Louisiana is low [on funds]. What better than a partnership between the state and a faith sponsored 501(c)(3) to work on these problems? Because of serious counseling and substance abuse costs, the annual budgets need financial assistance. That, plus staffing a 10,000 square foot facility, is not cheap, especially with the cost of keeping these girls away from their traffickers who are losing thousands of dollars a week. By not taking state money, Metanoia will be able to develop plans that will make it possible to handle these girls like parents would,” says Dr. Bobby Gaston.

And who will be there to “mother” these girls? Who better than a handful of nuns from around the world who have each been called specifically to help with the task of rehabilitating trafficking survivors. The assigned sisters – from India, the Philippines, Madagascar and Nigeria – who prefer to stay out of the limelight and focused on the work assigned to them, may each be from a different area of the world, but they all share one very strong common bond in their hearts. The sisters carry a presence with them that is the absolute picture of “though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Father Jeff Bayhi speaks of the plans for building, and the need to raise money and gain community support.
Father Jeff Bayhi speaks of the plans for building, and the need to raise money and gain community support.

“The power the nuns carry is incredible,” Bayhi shares. “Through them we’ve seen the power God’s presence can bring to a situation.” These women fiercely love, fiercely serve and fiercely seek the will of the father in their dealings with the lives of these young girls who have been so misguided, so broken and so tortured by the world around them. When asked what it is that drew them in, they simply said, “God did.”

Local pastor and prison rights advocate Ashanti Witherspoon knows firsthand the harm of human trafficking, even in the church. The human trafficking department of the sheriff’s office found his daughter before she could get on the bus to leave. She had run away from home but was captured that evening. She had met a man who came to a local church with a traveling evangelist, and his charm drew her in instantly. “They said we probably almost lost her. Had she been able to catch the bus, we might never have seen her again, but the quick response of praying Christians and law enforcement stopped her flight. We were told that she might have been grabbed before the bus arrived at its destination,” Witherspoon says. Luckily, their story had a happy ending, but it proves a major point: no one is safe or unaffected by this issue.

Church, state and law enforcement will be working together to ensure Metanoia Manor’s safety.
Church, state and law enforcement will be working together to ensure Metanoia Manor’s safety.

It is still groundbreaking work surrounded by trial and error and compromise. A step-by-step journey in which the next steps may not be fully known yet, but no one is turning back. As bishop Robert Muench prayed at the ceremony he asked the Lord to, “Fill us with righteous anger and sacred passion to whole-heartedly combat [this]. Help us to be ministers of prayer and healing, peace and justice, for those adversely affected and to effectively overcome.”

For more information on the project or to donate to the Metanoia building fund, please visit the website metanoia-inc.org.