Monday, July 30, 2012

The Woman Who Made It: Andrea

From our lovely summer intern, Autumn, here's a spotlight on Andrea, a Magdalene resident and Thistle Farmer.


Today is the last day of my internship, and I am choosing to spend some of my time with one of my favorite new friends, Andrea. Andrea is a resident in Magdalene and one of our Thistle Farmers, and recently just celebrated earning her GED. I love running into her on a work day, and today we sat down while she was labeling lip smoothies to talk a bit.

“My name is Andrea and I make soap and product labeling,” she says as she slaps another label precisely on a tiny tube of lip smoothie. “What do you say to those who have never heard about Thistle Farms and Magdalene?” I ask, and she responds with “I tell them that they should get to know us because we are friendly people from the street getting recovery. Magdalene provides us with all of our needs. I tell them that they can learn more about us and see where we come from. I also tell them to donate!” She says with a chuckle. “We just have so many people on the waiting list trying to get clean and some people just don’t understand. We represent the thistle -- it grows through concrete and nobody pays attention to it,” she says with a smile that lights up her face.

We talk about some of the Spiritual Principles written on the wall across from us, and she explains to me, “I love the one that says ‘Come Together.’ Everybody needs somebody in their life that can come to them and let them know that God didn’t bring you this far for him to leave you. You always have to rely on a friend to come together with you to teach you that you’re not alone.” I ask her a simpler question: what’s your favorite product? “The body balm because I have rough feet. I put it on after I shower and it stays good for a week until new skin grows. My favorite scent is Citrus Vanilla."

I close out the interview with my favorite question:  why do you believe people should purchase Thistle Farms products? “Because everything that is purchased goes toward another lady coming off the streets. The healing oils will get a new lady a new comforter set. A candle gets them hygiene products. Buy what you can to help our community grow!”

By Autumn, Thistle Farms Intern

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Woman Who Made: Lydia

Another story of a woman who is behind our handmade and healing products. Meet Lydia, interviewed by summer intern, Autumn.


One of my favorite things to do to start my Thistle Farms mornings off on the right foot is to go to the garden and pray. The garden is to the right of our plot on 5122 Charlotte Avenue, and is a beautiful, winding path lined with plants and flowers of every kind. There’s a perfect stone I love to sit by as I center myself for a long day of work, and sometimes, I hear a slight rustling nearby and Lydia appears from behind one of the shrubs. Lydia, a recent graduate, is always flitting about doing a number of jobs around Thistle Farms, and we strike up a conversation.

“Lydia, what is it that you do at Thistle Farms?” “Well, my title is ‘General Office Assistant.’ I help in the garden, the cafĂ©, with tours, I make products like lip balms and smoothies, I help in the office. They move me around a lot. I can make lotions, butters, and polishes. I do inventory, photography, and blogging!” She says with a proud smile. “What is your favorite Spiritual Principle?” I ask. “Oh, they all mean a lot to me, but the two that stand out are ‘Make a Small Change and See a Big Difference’ and ‘Remember You’ve Been In the Ditch.’ It’s been these small changes, one at a time, that’s led to stuff like me getting two years clean and losing 100 pounds. I always remember I’ve been in the ditch. I volunteer at my church’s thrift store because I’ve got to remember those that are behind me and reach out to them because if I don’t, who will? The best way out of a situation is for someone to lead by example.”

“What is your favorite product, Lydia?” She pauses and thinks for a moment before responding with, “Tuscan Earth Body Butter! I put it on my feet, elbows, and hands every day.” She says excitedly, “It’s just something I have to do in my beauty routine. It’s like missing brushing your teeth and you just don’t feel right when you walk out of the house, you know? You just have to do it! I have to have it.” She ends our conversation by saying, “Buying Thistle Farms is really an investment. You put your money into this place, into this woman, and then you’ll come and see. If you watch one particular woman and you come in and see that woman progress, that $20 you spent makes $2000 worth of a difference. It’s a good return on your investment!” Lydia really helps me see what “social business” really means.

By Autumn, Thistle Farms Intern

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Five Questions With... Anna

Meet another one of our very giving volunteers in
Five Questions With...

She's one of the most creative people at Thistle Farms
and has taken the paper products to a whole new level.

Anna Saterstrom

1.  How often do you volunteer at Thistle Farms?
M, W, F

2. How did you find out about us?
I saw your products at Whole Foods and was moved by the story about this artful, healing community. 

3. What have you done as a volunteer at Thistle Farms?
I have helped with product and studio design.  I love working in a studio space where women are working with their hands to create beautiful things.

4. Please share a favorite moment in your volunteer experience with us.

5. Use one word to describe your experience so far.

We love you, Anna!

If you want to get involved with Thistle Farms, 

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Woman Who Made It: Tish

This week, summer intern, Autumn, shines the spotlight on Tish, one of our newest Thistle Farmers.


Tish and I always have good conversations. She has this way of making you feel automatically comfortable around her, like you are old buddies. Thistle Farms is a little slow today, and is quiet as I approach her in the manufacturing room where she is tucked in a corner making lip balms. She greets me with a smile that makes a wrinkle in her eye.

“Whatcha makin’, Tish?”

“Some room sprays. They’re my favorite product and the first thing I was trained to make.” 

She shows me how she makes the room sprays, which is so entertaining for me since the Citrus Vanilla spray never fails to make my room smell sweet. Then, I get into the bigger questions.

“Tish, what would you say to someone who has never heard of Thistle Farms or our mission?”

Her eyes light up and she immediately says, “It’s phenomenal! It’s the cornerstone of love, healing and community, everything else just falls into place after that. Love heals!"

She goes onto explain to me, "Buying Thistle Farms saves lives by keeping the door open to women who need a safe place. It gives people another outlook on life, away from prostitution, addiction, or any kind of abuse.” 

Tish’s words leave me speechless - do room sprays really save lives? Tish is a living example that yes, they do.

By Autumn, Thistle Farms Intern

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'Lil Lena Garden

On a sunny June morning, the backyard at the 801 Lena House (affectionally known as 'Lil Lena, since it is next to the main residential home or the "big" Lena house) began buzzing with excitement. The Women of Magdalene readied themselves for a day of transformation- turning the bare backyard into a flourishing garden.  Volunteers Marcie Brolund, Mark, and JoniLea Stewart greeted the women with smiling faces and cars overflowing with gardening supplies.

Marcie, a register nurse and long time volunteer, first became involved as a part of the Faith Family Medical Clinic's "Journey to Health" partnership with Magdalene. In an effort to nurture healthy bodies and spirits, Marcie has organized 5k walks, smoking cessation classes, and a leads a walking group every Tuesday and Thursday. After a conversation with fellow volunteer, LeeAnn Hayes, Marcie turned her attention to nutrition. She realized the women “live in a good food desert” where healthy fruits and vegetables are expensive and hard to find.  They imagined a vegetable garden to provide the women healthy homegrown produce.

However, they felt the garden should be more than for just sustenance for the body, it should feed the soul. In an email Marcie explained their vision, writing:

“I wanted a place for the women to not only produce some healthy foods for their bodies, and learn how to do so, so that they may continue in the future, but also have another place to relax and heal, one that is beautiful, and something that they can look at and be proud of, a haven for them to relax and heal and rest and recover.”
Marcie and Keri Seay, Magdalene’s Assistant Program Director began planning the garden’s construction. Serendipitously, they found Mark and JoniLea while responding to a Craigslist ad for planter boxes. After hearing about the project and learning about the Women of Magdalene, Mark and JoniLea quickly became “gardening angels.” Mark has stage four oral cancer, and has lost part of his tongue as a result, hindering his speech. In spite of the fact that his energy is limited most days, he and his wife have devoted themselves to the garden with infectious enthusiasm.

Marcie, Keri, Mark, and JoniLea exchanged ideas by email and over the phone, organizing support and supplies for the garden. Mark met with the staff at the Dickerson Street Lowe’s, where he once worked and is still beloved, to negotiate prices for the garden. Lowe’s and their staff went above and beyond, donating $400 worth of supplies. Additionally, Lowe’s has committed to sell an arbor and picket fencing to Magdalene close to cost. Bates Nursery has also partnered with the project, donating beautiful flowers and herbs.
Back in the yard, the vision became a reality as the women unloaded the gifts. Dressed for the occasion in brightly colored gardening gloves, the ladies were excited to get to work. Joan, a resident, kept asking, “When can I get my hands in the dirt?” They worked together happily, despite the afternoon heat, energized by the beauty of the flowers. Lydia, a resident (almost graduate!), unloaded an unexpected treat, a tall wood birdhouse she had requested. At the end of the day, the women and the volunteers felt proud as they looked at the beautiful sanctuary they had created.

In the future, the women will be responsible for the garden’s upkeep. They will water the garden daily, and will use group times on Tuesdays and Thursdays to tend to the garden as needed. Marcie, Mark, JoniLea, and LeeAnn also plan to teach the women how to harvest, prepare the vegetables, and to cook with herbs.
Special thanks to Marcie Brolund, her son Matthew, JoniLea, Mark, Keri Seay, LeeAnn Hayes, Bates Nursery, and the Dickerson Street Lowe’s for making all of this possible!

Written By Katie, Magdalene Intern
Photos by Marcie, Volunteer through the Faith Family Medical Clinic

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Woman Who Made It: Monique

In the following weeks,you'll be seeing some blog posts written by Autumn, one of our summer interns. She is conducting a series of interviews of some of the wonderful women of Magdalene. Each Thistle Farms' woman has a unique story and makes a unique product. In the series you'll get to see a snapshot of daily work at Thistle Farms and learn the stories of the women behind our products. All of the products that you purchase directly benefit the women who made them, in tangible ways such aspaying their salary, giving them a home, and paying for their education andcomputer classes. The more products sold, the more women off the streets and out of jail, and in the long run, the more we can expand our mission and vision of healing love.


            I hear laughter in the manufacturing room as I peek my head in. My friend Monique bobs her head to the R&B music that comes from a small boombox, working away. “Hey, Monique? Can I ask you a few questions? It’ll only take a few minutes,” I add, knowing she probably has a lot to do today. “Of course, baby,” she says as she wipes her hands on her apron. Her face reminds you of an old friend you had in the past, always comforting.

            We walk into the room where we have our meditation circles. She points out along the ceiling something I didn’t notice before- a sentence written in purple. “’Love is the most powerful force for change in the world’. I truly believe that- love conquers all!” she says with a smile. She explains to me that she makes the lip balms and lip smoothies, and I have a whole new appreciation for those wonderful products know that I know Monique was the one who made them. “When people don’t know about Magdalene Thistle Farms, I tell them my story and how it saved my life!” she says, recalling her graduation from the Magdalene program.

            “So what are your favorite products from Thistle Farms?” I ask, curious. I know I love all the products, but I wonder what it’s like for the woman who made it. “Oh, I love the lip balms and smoothies because I make them. And I love the candles because they smell great,” she says with a serious look. “But it’s a lot more than just great products, right?” I probe. She nods and explains to me, “Thistle Farms has great products and also saves people’s lives daily. When you buy a product, you help another woman off the streets or get out of jail.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. 

By Autumn, Thistle Farms Intern