DEARBORN HEIGHTS (WWJ) – For the first time ever, a home for girls without one is opening their doors and showing the true meaning of Christmas.

WWJ’s Kathryn Larson visited Vista Maria, an all-girl sanctuary in Dearborn Heights that is changing the girls’ dark outlook on life into a bright future.

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Many girls at Vista Maria are just like Susan Hallman, who was living a life of dangerous addictions and trouble with the law before hitting rock bottom.

“I ended up running away from home and just leaving all the time,” she said.

Hallman was sent to Vista Maria, where intensive structure, AA meetings and mentoring transformed her, when the 18-year-old began to find herself.

“Having the staff tell us every day that you can do it, there’s no use in giving up, you can get through this you just have to push through, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I heard that every single day I was here,” she said.

Today, the healthy and happy young woman returns to campus with confidence, to remember her six month stay and why her world changed.

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Vista Maria is all about care, education and treatment, but it’s also about Christmas. Volunteers joined forces to wrap presents that will be delivered to the dorms so the girls will have something to open on Christmas. And Hallman said the girls aren’t asking for much this holiday.

“They really need clothes, different sized jeans, shirts, nothing too low-cut, nothing see-through,” she said.

Vista Maria’s CEO Angela Aufdemberge said the more than 160 girls, many of whom are orphaned, abandoned or victims of abuse, see the 37 acre campus as a safe place.

“What we try to do is provide care, trusting adult relationships, and we try to recreate the childhood that many of them have lost, and get them to start to heal and start to trust again and start to believe in themselves,” said Aufdemberge.

And Hallman already is believing in herself. She graduated and is accepted to Wayne State to study social work.

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For more information on Vista Maria, visit