After a lifelong career in education, Chuck, a 30-year band director at Beeville Independent School District, and Karen, a longtime teacher, wanted a change.
“We wanted something meaningful in our retirement,” Karen said.
Karen has long had a desire to help women, and to some extent she had, but that only led to her desire to help more. She taught a ministry class for unwed mothers and helped one of the young ladies she met go through the adoption process when she opted not to keep her child. The experience gave her a feeling of well-being she couldn’t shake.
“That gave me a fire, and I knew I could help women,” she said, but at that time she didn’t know how.
When someone approached her church, telling her of a man, John Littlejohn, who wanted to start a place for young pregnant women to go, she had found her calling.
When the couple that originally were supposed to operate the ranch backed out, Karen and Chuck stepped up to take on the challenge of running Reasons of Hope.
“In a three-week period, we moved out here,” Karen said.
“Out here” is a 30-acre ranch, part of a larger ranch that Littlejohn owns.
The 30-acre portion makes up the Reasons of Hope land. It contains a large ranch-style house with an open concept living room, kitchen, dining area, classroom and two bedrooms.
Also on the complex is a four-plex to serve as housing for the women who come to stay at Reasons of Hope. Each room in the four-plex has a private bath, closet and space for a mother and her baby.
Once on the property, Karen said it took them almost a year to get it ready for women to come.
The couple virtually had to start from scratch, applying for their 501c3 charity status, setting up producers and a screening process, and coming up with a plan on how to run the facility.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Karen said. “God teaches you today what you are going to need tomorrow.”
Once the couple had the facility ready to take in young women, they started the process of getting the word out about the organization and what it had to offer.
The Knowltons made weekly trips to pregnancy centers in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Victoria, Seguin and other places. At each center, they would speak to the director and tell them about Reasons of Hope. They also mailed out 400-500 letters to churches within a 100-mile radius of the center, letting them know they were open and accepting women 18 and older.
“We are looking for girls who are looking for a change in their life,” Karen said. “The whole key is not looking back but looking forward.”
Chuck explained that for pregnant women wanting to make life changes, “this is a place where they can start.”
The Knowltons have a couple of goals for the women who come to stay at Reasons of Hope.
The first goal is to establish a relationship with God.
“That relationship will change the direction you are headed,” Karen said.
That relationship is started, or renewed in some cases, through Bible study. Karen teaches a daily Bible study in the classroom on-site, and also the family attends church on Wednesday and Sunday, where there is additional Bible study.
The second goal is an education goal. The Knowltons want each girl to finish high school or get a GED. After that, the women are taken to Coastal Bend College, where they take the accuplacer test and start online classes at the classroom at Reasons of Hope.
The third goal for women is computer skills. They are taught typing skills, Excel and PowerPoint.
The fourth goal is learning Spanish. The foundation has recently purchased the Rosetta Stone program and hopes to teach the girls a second language.
Once a woman comes to the house, no matter where she is in her pregnancy, she is allowed to stay up to one year after her baby is born.
During that time, the Knowltons hope to get her through the four goals and also have her obtain a job at some point.
The job will teach the woman about saving money and budgeting. While still at the house, 70 percent of her paycheck will go into savings, 20 percent to the ministry and 10 percent in her pocket. When she leaves, all the money in the savings account will come back to her.
The hope is that she leaves a better person, having grown mentally, physically and spiritually while at Reasons of Hope.
The Knowltons have big hearts and high hopes. After 17 months running Reasons of Hope, they welcomed their first woman, Bonnie Arnold, on Mother’s Day, May 2012.