Our story began in 2007, when Margie Benitez, founder of Pathways, Inc., heard repeated public announcements about a counselor training program for people interested in volunteering at the local Pregnancy Center. These announcements were being broadcasted several mornings as she was preparing to go to work. Sensing that God was calling her to attend the training, she eagerly signed up.
After the final training session, the Program Director invited her to attend a Bible Study, supportive of post-abortive women. The Director explained that participation in the Bible Study was a required part of preparing all new counselors at the Pregnancy Center.
During the Bible Study, God provided Margie with a miracle. As she listened to the facilitator and the participants interact, it gradually dawned on her that, despite her Catholic upbringing and a lifetime of church attendance, she didn't truly know Jesus, or what it meant to have an intimate relationship with God. A victim of childhood abuse, Margie's unresolved trauma had led her to make some regrettable decisions during her teenage years. In her heart, Margie felt guilty and ashamed of herself. She did her best to lead a good productive life and appreciated her many blessings. She tried not dwell on her painful past. However, during the Bible Study, she was reminded of all of it, and bit by bit came to the agonizing realization that deep down, she continued to struggle with forgiving herself and her abuser. She also felt unworthy of God's forgiveness. Margie's eyes were opened. The Bible Study had not only brought her face to face with her own unhealed trauma, but also brought to light her need for a closer relationship with God. The Lord had used Margie’s desire to help women in crisis to bring her to Himself.
By 2009, Margie had counseled many women in crisis at the pregnancy center. She had also developed a closer relationship with God. She noticed that in the majority of the cases, there were some common denominators. Similar to Margie's earlier situation, most of these women suffered from low self-esteem and they didn't truly know Jesus. She noticed that many of them behaved as if they were ashamed of themselves and some seemed to have lost all hope. A few seemed utterly broken. These women came from all walks of life. They could have been her sister, niece, or daughter. They came from poor, middle class, and wealthy families. They were uneducated and highly educated. Margie's heart ached for them all. She wondered what else she could do to help these women discover how much God loves them. Eventually, this inquiry led Margie to start a new women's ministry that she named the Lighthouse Project. She chose this name because of its meaning. A lighthouse is a symbol of hope in the midst of a storm. Life can sometimes be like a storm at sea, dark, frightening, and isolating. Margie's desire was to help women, especially women in crisis or with past trauma, place their hope in Christ. In Isaiah 9:2 it says that "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine."
Margie began ministering to local women out of her home on weekends serving through her ministry, the Lighthouse Project. At the same time, she was also volunteering at her church, leading a program sponsored by Catholic Charities called Christians are Networking (CAN). Both ministries provided free help to job seekers, however, the Lighthouse Project was where Margie began sharing her passion for technology. Every weekend, Margie enabled women in the community to learn how to use their desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Free of charge, she facilitated workshops in Microsoft Word and Excel. She also taught her students how to set up and maintain social media and email accounts.
In 2010, Margie envisioned combining the services provided by CAN and the Lighthouse Project into one organization. The result was Pathways, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Christian based organization. Today Pathways, Inc. offers its services Monday through Friday and partners with other local organizations like Thrive Women's Healthcare and the Culpeper Resource Center to make free computer training, career coaching, spiritual mentorship and other resources available for their clients and for the community as a whole. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, financial position or religious belief is welcome at Pathways.
To embrace Christian values for the advancement, benefit and development of women in the local community.