Stephanie Bowman founded a charity to help women and children who are struggling with harrowing ordeals, the kinds she overcame in her own life.
Stephanie Bowman was a desperate mother of two young girls, homeless and an addict when she did the unthinkable: She placed her five-year-old daughter, Amber, into a dumpster to forage for food.
“There was a woman close by who saw me and started yelling at me: ‘Get her out of that dumpster!’” recalls Bowman. “I thought I was in trouble, [but] she said, ‘You’ll never put your kid in a dumpster again. I’ll make sure we have something here every day.’” And she did.
“The woman had food for us behind her restaurant whenever we needed it. I knew that was the purest sign that somebody loved us. Someone who didn’t even know us.”
It was an act of kindness that Bowman, now 53, would repay thousands of times over. She hit rock bottom in 1999, and her daughters were placed in foster care. But that same year, she got sober and has been since.
She founded One Heart for Women and Children, a nonprofit in Orlando, Florida, dedicated to serving struggling families in the community.
“I knew when I started One Heart that I wanted there to be no strings attached,” she says. “When people walk in, we want them to feel just like anyone else: whether they had a shower that day or haven’t had a shower in a month; whether they walked there or drove a fancy car. We want every single person who walks through the doors to feel the same, which is to feel hope and to feel loved.”