She founded True Light, Inc. in 2015 and serves as the nonprofit organization’s chief executive officer. Through True Light, Long operates a safe haven in lower Bucks County that provides food, shelter, clothing, personal products, and life skills to women undergoing recovery. Since opening the first house in 2017, she has helped more than 20 women re-enter the workforce and obtain independent housing.
“It’s amazing to be able to do that. I had somebody ask me a couple months ago, ‘if you could change anything what would you change?’ I wouldn’t change anything,” Long said. “I have been through a tremendous amount of trauma in my life.”
The goal now, she said is to “find purpose in my pain.”
Long quickly realized that in order to open additional houses to assist more women – including havens for pregnant women – she needed to generate greater revenues. With that goal in mind, she reached out to SCORE Bucks County in March 2022 for help establishing a thrift store.
“I never owned a store before,” said Long. “I needed that plan even before I opened the doors.”
Over the next 14 months mentors Howard Coff and Karen Kelly worked with Long to develop a plan and find and secure an appropriate space. Coff was instrumental in helping Long with the lease for True Light Thrift store, which opened in Penndel in May.
Kelly, who volunteers at a thrift store, shared real-world experiences on store operations, which were beneficial in the months leading up to True Light Thrift store’s opening.
“The thrift store is another expression of that commitment to fund the ministry, but also to provide an opportunity for the ladies in the residence to learn skill sets and re-enter the community,” Kelly said. “For Tracey this is not just a start up or small business, it is a passion that she is pursuing.”
As part of her nonprofit’s model, the women living in the home that Long runs help out at the store – but only when they are ready to do so. Long works to improve program participants’ self-esteem, anger management, and ensure they are receiving addiction treatment.
“I don’t let them come to the store until I know they’re mentally in the right place,” she said. “There’s a lot of growth that has to happen.”
Coff noted Long’s “resilience” and ability to overcome her own personal challenges on an inspiring journey to help others.
“In the last couple of years that I have known Tracey, I realize that she is very resourceful and has helped women when they were at their lowest point,” Coff said.
Long knows how it feels to be abused and suffer from addiction. Her path to recovery more than 13 years ago, coupled with her background in counseling and mental health aid her in determining when women living in the shared sober safe haven are ready to leave the nest.
“However long it takes them to be out on their own and on their own two feet,” she said.
As many as seven women live in the home at a time and there’s often a wait list – another indicator for Long that more homes are needed. Her immediate goal is to open two more safe havens in Bucks County and then possibly expand to Philadelphia as well as other states interested in her program.
Not too far into the future, Long anticipates seeking guidance from her SCORE mentors, Coff and Kelly as she opens new shared living spaces and considers expanding her thrift store.
“I’m already outgrowing this space,” Long said of her recently opened thrift store.
Learn more at SCORE Bucks County.