Monday, September 24, 2012

Five Questions With... Nita

Highly creative,
highly dedicated
and highly loved,
meet another fabulous volunteer - 
Nita Andrews
in her
Five Questions With...

1.  How often do you volunteer at Thistle Farms? 
I volunteer occasionally on Monday mornings and consistently on Wednesday mornings.

2.  How did you find out about us? 
I found out about Thistle Farms when my husband's ministry, Porter's Call, included Becca Stevens in an evening where great storytellers and musicians give voice to the stories that matter most to them. I listened over and over again to Becca's way of loving and empowering women through the non-profit she launched over ten years ago. I wanted to meet the women that might die if left out of love's front door. A sales team came that night and I loved seeing how they listened to others, even while they showcased their bath and body products. Then I found a few audio chapters of Becca's book, Hither and Yon, on a blog. I was a bit needy at the time and the truths I heard there kept me alive. In time, I was glad to be alive and I was aware that Thistle Farms would be the right place for me to learn about compassion, sacrifice, and healing. I wasn't much different from the women caught in a hopeless spiral of addiction and abuse at the hands of drug dealers and criminals. I live in Franklin, but I ache just as much as they do to tell a better story with my life. I believed during those dark months that some day my voice could sound as hopeful as the women I met at the merch table that night at the 2011 Evening of Stories.  

You may know how this goes in your life … for months, love haunted me but I couldn't muster up the faith or hope to get dressed and arrive on a day volunteers swarm Thistle Farms. I suspected that I would never be able to dabble in loving this way... it would be "all in" as they say in gambling.  It took a bit of time for me to find my courage. I prayed the serenity prayer and let trust grow over time. It also helped that my husband made his way to the circle a week before I did. He is always there now. I love that! We drive to Nashville every week from Franklin. Not much can stand in the way of the circle time. It is the highlight of every week.  

3.  What have you done as a volunteer at Thistle Farms? 
I have helped at a party and I helped make framed gifts for all of the graduates last spring. Mainly, I go every week to give my artistic input to the Paper Studio. I am a visual artist, so it was thrilling for me to see the paper studio the first day that I volunteered at Thistle Farms.  I took the tour with capable guides and learned about this aspect of manufacturing paper and building a product line and I never looked back.  

Since last spring, I have made several thistle paper based paintings. I stay awake some nights dreaming of new ways to branch out into new ventures with our creativity team. I love artisanal papers and love to see new applications for them, but not as much as I love the atmosphere around the table each week! You haven't lived until you sit at the feet of a dozen women from of all walks of life that talk about original grace, outlandish gratitude for simple things, and the best way to make a paper birdhouse.

4. What's a favorite moment in your volunteer experience with us?
One day, the studio needed to use my truck to pick up some heavy mat board. Two of us drove out of Nashville to a framing shop in Hermitage. We arrived and, to my shock, we were welcomed as if we were celebrities. I couldn't stop laughing at how crazy nice these people were. They had held back so much expensive framing paper and mat board that they said, "we hope to drown you in it!" They kept loading our arms full and we kept filling the truck.  I knew that for months to come, the studio would have what it needed to beef up the recipe for the cotton rag paper -- all from this one donation. It was so fulfilling and such an easy step to take: to match our need with cut outs that they would otherwise throw away after making custom mats for art and photographs. Jennifer and I said our goodbyes and on a hot day in July, we stepped outside the store to head home.  We looked at each like tweeners that had just had an hour 'shooting the breeze' with Justin Bieber.  What do you do with that kind of joy? Well, spontaneously we found our happy feet and semi-shouted our thanks and praise... at a strip mall. People were watching. It was such fun! I don't know if the cheerful givers inside the store saw our unbridled gratitude, but I think it would have brought a tear.

That day, it was an honor to represent Thistle Farms as "adults" on a mission and keep our cool while we were inside the business establishment, but then to "let it rip" when we got two feet out the door. We were happy for dreams coming a step closer for the paper studio and we praised the heavens like the children we are on the inside. That day taught me that gratitude keeps me a young 54. And the best gratitude is about others arriving. I have no doubt after volunteering as long as I have at Thistle Farms that I am the lucky one. I get to have dear, broken open, Magdalene graduates mentor me in the art of gratitude. 

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

Nita, you have transformed our paper room!
We are truly grateful and you are so loved.

If you want to get involved with Thistle Farms, 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Five Questions With... Jenni

She tutors the women,
she wipes down candles
and she wears the blue hair net while in the production area.

She's Jenni Joy, 
our featured volunteer of the week!

Here's another Five Questions With... interview.

1.  How often do you volunteer at Thistle Farms?
Weekly, on Wednesdays.  
I also volunteer at Magdalene on Thursdays. 

2.  How did you find out about us?
Good word of mouth.

3.  What have you done as a volunteer at Thistle Farms?
I have worked in the manufacturing area some 
and have also worked in the papermaking department.  
I also tutor some of the women.

4.  Please share a favorite moment in your volunteer experience with us.
The moment I knew the women realized I would be back.  

5.  Use one word to describe your experience so far.
(Leave it to the tutor to tutor to employ the hyphen!)

Jenni - you bring US joy!

If you want to get involved with Thistle Farms, 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Chestnut & Sage: A Preview

On September 5th, Thistle Farms gathered Hosts for our upcoming fundraiser "Chesnut and Sage: Stories of Love and Revival" on October 4. The Magdalene Fall Fundraiser is the financial foundation for the organization and Hosts help introduce the organization to new friends each year. In addition to getting tours of Thistle Farms, Hosts learned about the event and enjoyed Chestnut and Sage soup. Hosts also learned about the American Chestnut tree and growing sage -- two symbols that will be explored at the event on October 4th through readings, music and a reflection from founder Becca Stevens. 

Kay West and Lisa Froeb, our Chestnut & Sage soup makers

Laini Brown, Chestnut & Sage Host and publicist 
from Jericho Books
(publishers of Becca's 2013 book, Snake Oils)

Rita, Monique, Becca, Fiona Prine (Chestnut & Sage Chair), Cary & Katrina

Guests do not have to be invited by a Host to attend. The event is free but requires an RSVP here. Seating is limited and is subject to availability. Musical guests this year will be John Prine and Gretchen Peters and the event chair is Fiona Prine. Join us for an evening to learn about the healing power of love and continue to provide a sanctuary for women from the streets and jail for another year.

Read more here of Jennifer's thoughts about the Chestnut tree 
and her own path to healing.

Read here about the planting of our sage field.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Making The Switch

During her time at MTSU, Stacia Jenkins chose Thistle Farms as a local non-profit to study and deliver an oral presentation about at the end of the semester. Stacia had hand picked Thistle Farms out of the countless charities in Nashville, not because she was a follower on Facebook or because of the good works she had heard they do, but because of her discovery of their products... in her employer’s bathroom.

“I was working at an international health company during the summer of 2011 and after using the restroom, I noticed the hand soap at the sink.” Stacia explains. “Once I washed my hands, I read the card behind the bottle, which described the organization behind the soap. I was amazed about what Thistle Farms was doing and was impressed that a local company were hand-making products to heal the mind, body and spirit.”

Stacia went on to select Thistle Farms for her class project, but the simple idea of discovering our mission in an employers’ bathroom has all of us dreaming about a much bigger picture. 

What an easy and effective way to show your support of Thistle Farms -- by making the switch to using our all natural, handmade soap in your company's bathroom. 

Since you already use hand soap for your company and/or business, why not share the message that "love heals" with your employees and customers with Thistle Farms' hand soap. Not only will you be supporting a community of women who have survived lives of addiction, prostitution and trafficking, but you are also using a top notch product that leave your hands smelling fresh and clean. 

There are also other bathroom-friendly products, like hand lotion and room spray, that are a perfect addiction for any small or large business... and bathroom!

You can purchase our hand soap at our online store or for more information for large orders, contact And join other local social-conscious businesses by making the switch.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spreading Our Message To The World

Two years ago, Magdalene & Thistle Farms began a Find Your Way Home prison tour to share principles of healing with women's prisons and communities across the country. With support from the Cal Turner Family Foundation, we traveled to 9 different cities, including New York, Memphis, Houston and others, sharing inspiring stories from Magdalene graduates and music from songwriter friends. We performed the Find Your Way Home program with inmates in women's prisons as well as with churches in the community who wanted to learn more about this work. Last year, we performed the same program at The Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina; and this year we were invited by the Greenbelt Festival in England to share this same program in the UK. The Greenbelt Festival is a Christian arts, music and social justice event in it's 39th year and has over 20,000 attendees most years. It was an inspiring experience to meet remarkable people from across the world working on behalf of love and justice. We were grateful to be invited.

Thistle Farms founder, Becca Stevens, returned from the UK with these thoughts:

Don Schlitz, Regina Mullins, Shelia McClain, Marcus Hummon and Becca Stevens performed at the Greenbelt Festival in England. Highlights of the trip include Shelia watching the guards at Buckingham Palace, Fish and Chips, and making new friends from around the world. We shared stories and songs about the universality of the issues around prostitution, trafficking, and addiction and how we heal in community. We are working on a partnership with The Next Step that wants to make bath products for the UK market. Marlei Olsen did a wonderful job organizing the whole group. Stacye Schlitz and John Kutsko were a beautiful addition to the team taking pictures, singing harmony, and carrying the message of Magdalene and Thistle Farms to this part of the vineyard.

Shelia, a Magdalene Graduate and Assistant Resident Manager, shares her experience on the trip:

On September 16, 2004, I would have never been able to imagine how good life would be. Coming into the Magdalene Program has opened doors that have always been closed. I’m amazed how my hell helps inspire people to help bring change or inspire an individual to forgive.  I get the opportunity to travel and share a little of myself. When I was in addiction, I didn’t realize that this was an international problem. I honestly thought it was only here in the US. These last eight years has opened my eyes to the truth. This is happening everywhere.

About six months ago, Becca called me and told me to start working on my passport. Becca invited me and Regina to go to The Greenbelt Festival. The last six months have been very exciting to me.  I was anxiously waiting on August 22 to get here. The first day that we arrived, no sooner than we landed and got to our hotel, Regina and I were on a bus trying to find the Buckingham Palace. We got off the bus downtown and asked for directions. I was so excited and at the same time a little nervous. We found the palace. I loved the soldiers. We decided in order to see as much as we could in the 24 hour span, we had it would be best to get on a tour bus and let them guide us.

I came back with at least 100 pictures of the beautiful buildings and cathedrals. I must say I felt like a big kid, wanting to see everything. Everyone kept asking if we were on a holiday. I guess it was really obvious! I love getting to experience different cultures. The English breakfast was really good. The following day we went to the Greenbelt Festival. On Saturday, we did the program: Find Your Way Home: Stories and Songs of Hope. The next day while waiting for Marcus and Don to perform a women came up to me wanting to talk. My story had gave her some hope that she too would be able to move on from the demons of her past and be ok with the person she is today. Although we had taken different paths we had been through the same childhood tragedies. This to me was amazing.  I’m so grateful for the program, all the volunteers, Thistle Farms, and everyone who donates and believes that love heals.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Eden House

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of Kara French, the Eden House in New Orleans has been created to become the only long-term, residential facility for individuals attempting to leave prostitution in Louisiana. Modeled after Magdalene, Eden House will provide six women a safe and supportive home for two years, free of cost.

Kara French from the Eden House, Clemmie from Magdalene / Thistle Farms
and Kiren Chauhan, summer intern for the Eden House

Kara had attended Magdalene's Education Workshops to learn about our program and now serves as the Founder and Executive Director of Eden House.

New Orleans Police Department Chief Ronal Serpas had worked along side the Magdalene program when he served as Nashville's Chief of Police. He believes that Eden House can have the same success in New Orleans.

Watch a great story on the program HERE and to get more information on or donate to Eden House, go to their website: