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Only a Loving Community Can Heal What’s Been Broken

Jennifer Clinger - Nashville, Tennessee

By the time women get to the streets, there are several illegal hustles they rely on. Using drugs to deal with everyday life, theft, and then it's just a revolving door from jails, prisons, rehabs, psych wards, streets. A lot of my sisters never made it out alive. I just came to terms with that as "God decided that they had enough and took them home." It's obvious that a broke community got them out there. It only makes sense that a loving community can get them back. She says "I wanna open a house. I don't wanna receive state or federal funding. I wanna give them a sanctuary. I want to love them lavishly. Let's see if this love heals." There's a myth out there that women like us don't heal. If you look around it's very evident. We do heal. When we heal, you can watch us go because we are truly survivors.

She went to prison, got 5 women with no less than 100 arrests on their records and they were the pioneers of the whole thing. 5 women. So, it is housing first. You can't try to heal when you're worried about paying rent and you don't think you have any...

Sr. Simone (off-camera): Amen, any place to go.

Clinger: Well, you don't think you have any skills other than what you've been doing. 95% of the women have been sexually molested, physically molested, or abandoned and/or all of the above before the ages of 10 and, on average, hit the streets between 12 and 15. So, it does a lot of damage in those young lives. So, she found out that the women were healing, loving them, and...two years is up and finding out we can't get jobs because of criminal histories, lack basic job skills. She says, "If you're really going to love people, you have to worry about their...you have to be concerned and worried about their economic freedom. A livable sustainable wage." We could find jobs, but it was not enough to support ourselves.

She found out that love is good business. Now, that business that I was in was not love business, that was just greed and...yeah. This is true love business and an attempt to love you.

Sr. Simone (off-camera): Amen.

Clinger: The thing is is that women get their children back and save the state money from foster care. We no longer go to prisons and jails, saving the federal government money from that. To house a woman at Magdalene is about half the cost of putting them in jail for a year.

This is Thistle Farms. It started in 2001 with 3 products at the church, Vandi campus. It was a body balm, a lip balm, and a bath salt. It's grown to all this without state or federal funding. We use all natural ingredients. There's just as good for the Earth as they are for the body. Every recipe--we have over 30 products now--every recipe gets carefully mixed, carefully measured. They get poured one at a time. Labels, coats, barcodes, sense-stickers all go on one at a time and we are in over 480 retail stores. We go out to events. We've got the store-front here. We are growing. Only so many women can make a soap or lotion at one time, so we have to be growing. We're on capital campaign.

By the time we get through Thistle Farms, you're just going to get a really good of an idea of how --thanks that you're here--that we are all growing global and that we can make the world a better place for our children and grandchildren.