I had the honor of having lunch with Dorris from Thistle Farms, last weeks featured social enterprise. Dorris’ story and optimism inspires me. She has come a long way.
Dorris grew up in small town Tennessee in a family with a strong religious background. After witnessing a family member kill her father, Dorris was forever changed. She became addicted to marijuana at age thirteen, which led to a 26-year addiction and 20 years on the streets. During this time Dorris was in and out of jail, raped, and on a downward spiral. While Dorris was in jail she reconnected with her friend Regina, who had also been homeless. Regina shared with Dorris that she was working at Magdalene, a program dedicated to helping women get and stay clean. Dorris asked Reginia to help her get into the Magdalene program. At the time there were around 150 women on the waiting list. The staff of Magdalene said that if Dorris was serious about getting help she would have to call every day.
About the same time Dorris reconnected with Regina, Dorris’ mother encouraged her to come home and sing for an anniversary celebration at church. Music had always been something important to Dorris and a coping mechanism during times of trouble. While Dorris was home, she continued to call the Magdalene program daily.
After the choir anniversary and the possibility of the Magdalene program, Dorris felt a sense of hope. She said she felt like God had a different plan for her life and that she was going to rise above the vicious cycle.
Eventually Dorris got into the Magdalene program. She finally had a place to live and a community to support her. Dorris had been to halfway houses trying to get clean before. However, with Magdalene she was able to get the treatment she needed. Magdalene focuses on the wellbeing of the whole individual. There is not a certain time Magdalene pushes survivors to begin working. Survivors have individual plans which allow them the time they need to heal. Dorris started therapy and realized she had never talked about the death of her father or other hard times she’d faced. Magdalene was the beginning of Dorris’ healing journey. Dorris was able to rebuild her relationship with her children. Magdalene also helped Dorris get her teeth fixed, provided a stipend, and grocery money. This allowed these strong ladies to have food and experiences they had never had before. The fabulous Magdalene program is still part of Thistle Farms today.
When Dorris first came to Thistle Farms, she started as a product manufacturer, making lip balms. She moved her way up to manager of packaging. Today Dorris is living her dream and gets to travel to speak at schools, meetings, and more. Dorris loves the job of sharing her story and is amazed that she is able to speak to people who are in such high places.
Dorris still remembers the day she was accepted into Magdalene, like it was yesterday. She was tearing up telling me about her journey. She is very grateful for Magdalene and Thistle Farms. I admire Dorris’ courage and bravery, with the right guidance she was able to turn her life around.
If you are local to the Nashville area, I encourage you to stop in and meet Dorris yourself, my words do not begin to do this sweet lady justice. You’ll find her smiling non-stop, working passionately, and lighting up the room.