Woman with long, troubled past is now helping reunite families in Polk County

Zoe's Journey looking for more housing

POLK COUNTY, Fla. - Carol Zoffinger knows what rock-bottom feels like. In her lifetime, she's racked up a criminal history longer than some books.

She has spent more than five years in prison -- each time she got out, she found a new way back in.

"It was a 27-year drug addiction. At age 11 I began using drugs and I got into crack cocaine eventually," she said. "Nothing I did worked. Nothing my parents did worked."

Finally, about ten years ago, a judge gave Carol one last shot to turn her life around, and she jumped at the opportunity.

For years, Carol lived in a shelter, got involved with a church, and eventually got her kids back. Then she went back to school, got her masters, and is working on her PhD.

Now she's busy with the non-profit she created, called Zoe's Journey. The organization provides housing, counseling, support groups, and more to get troubled women -- just like she was -- back on track.

"The unique thing that we do is that our goal is to work with the child welfare system to re-unify these families.

April McCaig turned to the program when she became addicted to prescription drugs and lost everything.

"It's changed me, brought me out of the dark, and gave me a second chance in life," McCaig said. "I was really stuck."

Right now, the three women going through Zoe's Journey are staying in half of a duplex in Lakeland. But once they're reunited with their children, the group will one out of space.

That's what Carol told the county commission this morning.

"We don't have the space," she said to the board.

She asked if her group could use a vacant facility. The board said it would set aside time to meet with her to see if there's any way it can help.

Even if the county can't help, Carol sees it as just a slight growing pain.

"There's no stopping now," she said. "There's a need, and what we're doing is creating stable families."

For more information on Zoe's Journey, visit the group's web site at http://www.zoesjourney.org/.

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