Abby Catoe does not like to sit still.
“I’ve always enjoyed taking the lead in situations,” she says. “I’m a doer. I’m not a watcher.”
While her body may be busy, Catoe has learned to still her mind when she’s out on the land. She found hope and self-esteem by working in the dirt, and she wants other women to have the same opportunity.
Catoe, 61, is the owner of Par Les Femmes, founder of Annie’s Hope Center for Growing and Healing, and a pastor at First Christian Church of Walnut Cove.
Annie’s Hope, which is being built on farmland that Catoe owns in East Bend, will be a long-term, safe home for survivors of domestic violence. The women will live in community and garden, tend beehives, make soaps, and participate in other enterprises of interest. A support system of counselors and other leaders will help the women grow in self-esteem and independence.
Par Les Femmes (by the women), a consignment thrift store with an emphasis on local art, raises money for Annie’s Hope. It opened Feb. 6 at 1692 S. Hawthorne Road in the Twin City.
“Domestic violence is still a pretty prevalent thing in our community and in the world,” Catoe says. “It crosses all races, creeds, and socioeconomic boundaries.”
Catoe says that her mother endured more than one abusive relationship, and then Catoe repeated the cycle until she found a way out. After starting her own landscaping business in 1996, she embarked on a formal education, which culminated in a Masters in Divinity degree from Wake Forest University School of Divinity in 2017.
“Abby’s a very thoughtful person, a deep, deep thinker, and aware of justice issues,” Melinda McDonald, a Disciples of Christ ordained minister, says. “The heart of this woman to create Annie’s Hope is in her DNA. I get overwhelmed thinking about how much she has lived and breathed this work. Her soul is in it.”
What has the COVID-19 taught you?
Living in this pandemic — I have continued working — has taught me how important it is to show love for my neighbors.
How do you de-stress?
I take walks and get outside. When I’m working on landscaping and pruning, my mind can relax and be free.
What is your advice for women leaders?
You can’t do the work alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
More about Annie’s Hope is at sites.google.com/view/annieshope/home.