Service Site Spotlight: Scarlet Hope

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The “puddle of Jesus” you step into at Scarlet Hope will soak your socks right through to your feet.

That’s a metaphor, of course. The “puddle” is what Executive Director Ronelle Brumleve calls the infectious hope and love of Jesus that Scarlet Hope emulates to the women it serves. These women work in the adult entertainment industry in Louisville.

Scarlet Hope began in 2008 when God placed it on founder Rachelle Starr’s heart to serve women working in an Indiana strip club. Scarlet Hope is now five cities strong, sharing the gospel message that Jesus loves and cares for women in the adult entertainment industry. 

Ronelle was saved at 41 years old and has served with Scarlet Hope for 10 years. For 2 of those years, she has worked as the executive director of the Louisville branch.

“When I learned that Jesus was for me, and he loved me despite all those years without him, I just had to let other women know,” Ronelle said.

Louisville’s Scarlet Hope has three year-long interns and adds up to five summer internship positions in the categories of Outreach, Case Management and Career Development Program. These internships are reserved for young adults through Love Thy Neighborhood, a partnered program since 2014.

Scarlet Hope has two main ministries: outreach, and a career development program. 

Outreach

“In our city, outreach looks like strip clubs, illegal massage parlors…we have some street prostitution here in our city, but not a lot, not like other cities,” Ronelle said. 

Every Thursday, Ronelle and her team deliver home-cooked meals to local nightclubs. Two volunteers take the meals into the club to build friendships with the women working, while the rest of the volunteers remain outside to pray over their interactions. 

There are around 15 clubs in the city, but since Scarlet Hope has to be invited, it currently serves only 8 strip clubs. Ronelle said Scarlet Hope couldn’t function without its 75 volunteers who plan outreaches, cook, pray and carry meals into clubs. 

In addition to delivering meals, Scarlet Hope implements “gift drops,” during which volunteers drop off gift bags for the women working at the clubs. A recent drop gave women nail polish, a journal, a candle and body spray as well as Scarlet Hope’s contact information. 

When COVID-19 shut down the clubs and made outreach impossible, Scarlet Hope served over 140 women and gave out 150 bags of food to women in need through a text messaging-based outreach. Scarlet Hope also connected women to over 50 other resources in the city to help with immediate personal needs like shelter and food. 

Career development program

Louisville’s Scarlet Hope is the only branch so far to go beyond outreach. Ronelle said most women in the adult entertainment industry don’t want to continue in sex work, but they do not have anything else to put on their resumes to appeal to other employers.

“If a woman is ready,” Ronelle said, “they can apply for our Career Development Program.”

The Career Development Program at Scarlet Hope works to gives women in the sex industry the opportunity for a new job where they won’t be sexually exploited.

The Career Development Program at Scarlet Hope works to gives women in the sex industry the opportunity for a new job where they won’t be sexually exploited.

The 30-week program enrolls women into a holistic education: they study occupation training, relational boundaries, how to use a computer, finances, physical fitness, art therapy and Christianity. In addition, each woman receives an hour of therapy and an hour of case management each week. They also help Scarlet Hope with outreach to gain hands-on service training. 

To qualify, women must be 60 days sober, working a recovery plan, and they must have adequate childcare, housing and transportation. The women receive a stipend for their time, and for the last two months  of the program, work an “externship” at local businesses where they can train for jobs. The goal is for women to receive a job offer outside the adult entertainment industry after they graduate from Scarlet Hope’s program.

Ronelle said while women don’t have to be believers to go through Scarlet Hope’s program, they know what the organization stands for. She said God “parts the Red Sea for these women” every day.

“No matter what our society wants to make the sex industry look like, it is not respectful. Even if you’re not a believer—there is something in us that knows we are not created for that,” Ronelle said on the “sex-worker positive” rhetoric permeating pop culture today.

“No matter what our society wants to make the sex industry look like, it is not respectful. Even if you’re not a believer—there is something in us that knows we are not created for that.”

 “It eats away at our souls. It would be great if every sex worker was in a position where ugly words were never spoken to them, physical harm was never done to them, but that’s not true. It’s that distorted. I don’t care how tough men and women in the industry say they are, how they’re in control…they are not. It is tearing them apart.”

Scarlet Hope’s job, Ronelle said, is to share the “hope and love of Jesus.” Then, the Holy Spirit takes over. 

“Sex is not the answer to what the world is trying to make it the answer for—loneliness, self esteem, power, control,” Ronelle said. “That’s not it. It’s just one more idol that we’ve created to fill in this hole.”

Ronelle said that going into the strip clubs and witnessing to the women working there provides opportunities to share the gospel with the men patronizing those establishments, too, which is something God turned her heart towards.

“God restores. He did it in my life, he does it in all our lives if we just let him,” Ronelle said. “We’ve got the hardest job in the world, but it’s the best job in the world.”


Take a behind-the-scenes look into the ministry at Scarlet Hope.

Learn about Scarlet Hope’s partnership with Love Thy Neighborhood here.

Apply to serve at Scarlet Hope through Love Thy Neighborhood here.

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