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A Social Enterprise? A Helping Hand! (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, July 18, 2014

God is doing a new thing

A Social Enterprise? A Helping Hand! (Feature Friday!)

The computer has made my world expand. And at the same time, get small. Almost like a small town. I’m thinking of several new-ish friends of mine, blogging friends and email friends. Friends I have never met, nor are very likely to. But, friends indeed, drawn together by similar interests and orientations, not to mention similar senses of humor.

One of my blogging friends is Matt Marino, an Episcopal priest in Arizona. (His always-excellent, and sometimes-snarky, blog is http://thegospelside.com/ ) He and I exchanged several comments recently, and he gave me information on an innovative women’s enterprise in the Nashville area. Oh, and it’s a mission, too! Started in 1997 by Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest on Vanderbilt University’s campus.

Thistle Farms now incorporates a thriving business enterprise. I quote from the website: “By hand, the women create natural bath and body products that are as good for the earth as they are for the body. Purchases of Thistle Farms products directly benefit the women by whom they were made.” But that is just one of the end outcomes of Thistle Farms. The supportive women’s community is much, much more than just a bath and body product production facility.

This supportive community is also known as the Magdalene program, a residential program for women who have known abuse, prostitution and trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, and life on the streets. Some come to the program from prison or from the streets, but all have in common the fact that they are survivors. Overcomers. One of the distinctive things about this two-year program is that they give the women housing, food, medical and dental treatment, counseling and therapy, further education, and job training. All this, without charge to the residents. (And without receiving government funding.)

Operating on 24 principles that were developed from St. Benedict’s Rule, the Magdalene community strives to live ”gracefully in community with each other.” This simple, practical guide to living aids everyone in the community—residents, staff and volunteers alike—to live cooperatively, building up each other and sharing in work to help the community grow. Be nurtured. Become so much more.

After new residents become acclimated to the Magdalene community for several months, they then start to look for work, return to school, and have the option of entering their home-grown job training program at the bath and body product facility, Thistle Farms. There they have the opportunity to learn worthwhile job skills in every facet of production, manufacturing, marketing and sales. The women learn responsibility and cooperation, which are the foundation for everything else. All worthwhile skills for life management, as well as opportunities to gain healing experiences. These experiences build up and nurture themselves and each other.

Magdalene staff, volunteers, residents and graduates “stand in solidarity with women who are recovering from abuse, trafficking, addiction, and life on the streets, and who have paid dearly for a culture that continues to buy and sell women,” as the website says. God’s richest blessings on this innovative, caring, nurturing community that seeks to give value to each woman they assist. (For further information, see http://www.thistlefarms.org/ )

@chaplaineliza

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2 thoughts on “A Social Enterprise? A Helping Hand! (Feature Friday!)

  1. Beautifully written! Thanks so much for sharing the story of Magdalene-Thistle Farms. If you ever find yourself in Nashville, please come visit us at Thistle Farms!

    • Thanks! Thistle Farms/Magdalene community is an awesome ministry! Sorry I don’t get down Nashville-way too often, but if I do, I will stop by.

      Grace and peace be yours. I’m sending good thoughts and prayers your way, too.

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