Dayton Upfront

 Dayton Upfront

Donna Cox and a Christian ministry guide and assist women in strip clubs

By Tim Walker

Flashing lights illuminate a small stage where a scantily clad young lady dances, surrounded by fog and thumping music. There may be dollar bills here but there is no sense of compassion, and—with many young women trapped in what can turn into the ultimate “dead-end job”—there is little room for hope.

Yet here, in this most unlikely of environments, Donna Cox and a Christian ministry spread a message of love and understanding to those who may need it the most.

Every week Cox and OneHeart Dayton, a ministry whose home base is the Salem Church of God in Clayton, visit strip clubs in the Miami Valley and serve home-cooked meals to the entertainers who work there and show them there is more to our community than condemnation and judgement.

They work hard to earn the trust and build relationships with some of the most vulnerable women in our local area. “Many of these women don’t have strong family support,” says Cox, a licensed professional counselor who founded OneHeart Dayton in 2010.

“Many of them lack educational opportunities, they may be addicted or they may be struggling to make ends meet,” she says. “They are women who are trying to support children, who may have criminal records and who are at high risk of being trafficked.”

For nearly 10 years now Cox has been working hard and dedicating countless hours to empowering young women who usually expect only to be shunned or ridiculed.

“At first,” Cox says, ”I was ‘The Church Lady,’ which I didn’t mind. Now, however, they call me ‘Momma Donna,’ or simply ‘Mom,’ which I love.”

With OneHeart Dayton, Cox has made a commitment to fearlessly and relentlessly be there, to show up, with love and support. She shows up at court hearings, in hospital rooms, at weddings and baby showers, at graduations and—sadly—at funerals.

OneHeart Dayton delivers gifts when they are least expected, provides furniture, school supplies, food and friendship to those who need it most. In addition to its other services, OneHeart Dayton also provides local entertainers with professional counseling services, triage and referrals to appropriate social services such as drug and alcohol rehabilitation, scholarships for GED and a variety of educational opportunities. It strives to reach out and genuinely show love to every person that—as members of the ministry are fond of saying—God puts in their path.

It may strike some as unusual for a devout, God-fearing professional woman like Cox to spend her free time reaching out to the women who work in Dayton’s strip clubs. And she admits that at first she was nervous and that she’s also met with some resistance at times.

But as one local entertainer puts it, “Donna is this 5’0” dynamo that you don’t ever want to underestimate. This tiny little blonde lady will never give up on you. She will do everything in her power as long as she has breath to help you. I trust her… she is the real deal.”

Amen to that.