Penny’s heritage is German, Irish and Cherokee Indian. She laughs when she says, “I liked to fight and drink!” Penny started drinking at a very young age, helped by the fact that her father owned and her mother worked at bars. Penny and her boyfriend lived in public housing and grew and sold marijuana. Penny’s day to day life was comprised of drinking, taking pills and smoking pot, plus raising her three boys, Jason, Joseph & Jonathan. Penny tried to get away from the scene by moving to Florida with her family. But after 3 years, Penny returned to the same projects in Nashville where the cycle continued.
She tried rehab once, but it didn’t work. She gave her children to family members and lived on the streets, calling the underside of a bridge home.
Arrested multiple times for public intoxication, trespassing, DUIs, prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia, a judge told her he was going to lock her up for good if she didn’t get herself together.
“I was sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Penny explains as the reason for entering the Magdalene Program. While in a 45-day, in-patient program at the Elam Lloyd Mental Health Treatment Center, she heard about Magdalene, and providentially the community was able to offer her a bed the day she was released.
Penny has been in Magdalene for almost a year and started working at Thistle Farms in May 2009. She has a tutor once a week, preparing her for the GED to receive a high school diploma, and is taking computer classes at Belmont University. She explains that the Magdalene program is so successful because it offers a full range of benefits.
“The Magdalene staff is nice, and because we are trusted, we don’t have anyone overseeing us in our houses. Everyone is treated as an individual. The whole group is not punished if one person makes a mistake. Our medical and dental needs are met. We receive help with our credit report and bills. Everything is covered for us: hygiene, clothing, bedding, appointments—even bus passes.”
Penny is proud of herself and offers these words of wisdom to new women coming into the Magdalene program: “Sit down, be still and remember. It’s a lot better here than on the streets. You have a chance to make it!”