Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why I Love Aberdeen Green, Waterproof Mascara & Volunteers

  As a part of a community that constantly shows their love, hope, support and compassion on a daily basis, I am used to hearing of amazing acts of kindness and unbelievable stories of redemption. It is not unusual for people to call, email, or show up at my job to volunteer their time, donate something, share their story or simply be a part of our morning meditation. We witness incredible displays of a deep affection towards the women and the cause all the time. It has been this way since Magdajnulene's beginnings. Those involved in the early stages had the passion that it took to make this a sustainable program. The volunteers and donors that came along the way shared that same fire and dedication, turning a small program into what is now a national movement. I have always been so incredibly grateful to those that were involved in creating, implementing, sustaining, and sharing a program that saved my life. I am so passionate about what we are doing, about what I am a part of, that it is very hard for me not to cry, a lot, all the time. As the Events Coordinator, I handle numerous emails and field phone calls 24/7. And typically have the tale-tale signs of being a "cryer" with my mascara starting to run down my face by the end of the phone call. Normally, the first 10 minutes of the call (or first few paragraphs of an email) consist of people explaining how much they love us, how being involved with Thistle Farms has "changed their life", why they want to donate money or asking how they can help. But wait a minute, aren't I the one who is supposed to be saying "Thank You?" I'm confused, because, it was through their support, their donations, their volunteer time, their love that this program has flourished. However, it often becomes a "Battle of Gratitude", sounding something like, "Thank You." "No, Thank You. " "No, no, Thank YOU." You get the idea...


So I don't know why I was surprised when I found myself in the same conversation, repeating how thankful we were, with those pesky tears threatening to ruin my  perfectly applied makeup for the evening, as I was asked to help host an event. (But I was prepared! I now use WATERPROOF mascara on a daily basis and could probably write it off on my taxes as a necessary tool as an Event Coordinator for a non-profit..) I was having a "gratitude battle" with some chicks I LOVE, Carly & Amanda of Aberdeen Green, (who are awesome because they have a 540 area code and are from Virginia... I'm just sayin'....) 
These amazingly talented, incredibly sweet and highly motivated women took it upon themselves to plan, promote, organize a benefit for Magdalene & Thistle Farms. Music City: Women 4 Women. a musical benefit to raise money for us! They got the venue, food, sound, stage, artists, bartenders and well, EVERYTHING donated or paid for. And all this in order for them to perform their music as a means of holding a fundraiser for us. The whole night was amazing. Jennifer, Rita, Penny, Dorris and I attended, and were completely blown away by the love and compassion displayed by everyone involved. The highlight of the night for me was being witness to another graduate, Dorris Walker, performing her original song "Magdalene", for the first time. Singing a song that she wrote, on a Nashville stage, accompanied by an incredibly talented artist, for the first time, was a huge event that I know she will never forget.
And Dorris rocked it! 

The talent in that room last week rivaled that of any 10 Nashville venues that night! Every single person and group that played, was simply amazing..

 Oh, and did I mention that they all WORK at The Bound'ry? It was like Coyote Ugly, without the Ugly. They went from waitstaff to noteworthy music artists in a few seconds flat. It was beautiful, graceful and humbling. When they weren't on stage, I watched them clear tables, refill drinks, empty trash and sweep. And they did it all with a guitar slung over their back, or wearing heals, or in sequined dresses.  I had the opportunity to speak with the owners of The Bound'ry for a little while. As I was thanking them,
they interrupted me. And there it was: "No, thank YOU!" They explained that they did not want their employees to look back in 10 years and still be working there, or wonder where all the time went. Instead, they wanted them to be a part of something bigger, to use their time there as a way to interact, participate, and impact their community. And doing this benefit for Thistle Farms & Magdalene was just one way they were choosing to do just that.
The owners donated the venue space, some incredible food, drinks, and their employees time. It was $12 admission and the place was packed pretty soon. In addition, they held a silent auction and donated all of that money as well. All in all, nearly $2,000 was raised! That money goes directly into the program to help get some of the 100+ women on our waiting list off the street. Women who have been victims of sex-trafficking, domestic violence, prostitution, sexual abuse and drug addiction come to Magdalene seeking a solution to a life that has gotten stuck in a cycle of misery, pain and hopelessness. Through the belief that love is the most powerful force for change in the world, our community is changing that cycle. By providing a 2 year, residential program, at no cost to the women, Magdalene provides a place for healing, compassion, and an unconditional love that, 7 years later, overwhelms me every day. 

 As a graduate, I feel I want to be more focused on loving, instead of being loved. But no matter how much I love, how grateful I am, how passionate I am or how excited I get, I always run across volunteers and supporters that are even more motivated and dedicated that I am.

 And that, my friends, is powerful. 
This is how mountains are moved. 
How minds are changed.
 How ignorance is cured.
 How legislation is written. 
How victims become survivors.
How people find Christ.
How lives are saved. 

On behalf of the women of Magdalene & Thistle Farms, I want to extend our gratitude to our newest Thistle Farmers:

It is only through the dedicated supporters and volunteers that this program is even possible. If you want to find out more about getting involved with Thistle Farms & Magdalene, go to the #LinkLove list at the top of the page & check us out! 

As I travel on this amazing journey that God has strategically sent me on, I cannot help but smile when I think of how He places people in my life. Carly & Amanda sing about a valley.. The Shenandoah Valley.. Well I grew up just a stone's throw away, in another valley, The New River Valley.. Working with these 2 reminds me of home, of the mountains and the cool air.. I can see the Blue Ridge Mountains & the lake I live on when they sing. And that's about the best thing in the world. I've tried my whole life to run from those mountains and that lake, mostly because of the things that happened during my drug use and addiction. Thank you Amanda & Carly for giving me back a beautiful picture of my home, and reminding me that no matter how far I run, Virginia will always be there. 

In Love & Gratitude,