Magdelene And Thistle Farms Founder Honored By President
By Chris Cannon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Reverend Becca Stevens had a vision in 1997 that would change the lives of hundreds of women in Nashville. Thursday, she will be honored at the White House for all she has done over the years.
"The vision is an old vision, it's old stuff; to love people, and bring them into a home and have a safe place to have them," Stevens explained.
The Episcopal priest started the Magdelene program nearly 15 year ago. It is a residential community for women who have survived prostitution, addiction and abuse.
In 2001, the Magdelene program led to the creation of Thistle Farms, a home and body products company that teaches Magdelene graduates real-life work skills.
Today, Magdelene operates six houses, where 28 women live. Thistle Farms employs 34 women, all of whom have graduated from the Magdelene program.
"To watch all this stuff happening around you is wonderful, and to watch all the transformation in women's lives, who I think a lot people gave up on," said Stevens.
The concept of the Magdelene program has inspired similar projects in more than a dozen cities across the nation.
Stevens vision for change is now being recognized outside of Nashville.
Thursday she will be named one of President Barack Obama's Champions of Change. Stevens is one of 15 people the President is honoring during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"I love that the White House calls. That's fun, that's fun in the middle of the day working with women from the streets," Stevens said with a smile.
The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama's Winning the Future initiative. From fighting AIDS, to suicide prevention, the initiative highlights Americans who are influencing others, who have taken leadership in driving societal shifts and are making an impact in their communities and beyond.
"To get this recognition, it was just wonderful," Stevens said.
She will take Katrina Davidson with her to Washington D.C. for Thursday's ceremony. Davidson is a graduate of the Magdelene program and the national sales director for Thistle Farms.
The two will go to the White House with gifts from Nashville.
"(We are) carrying products that we're going to give to the Vice President and the President from Thistle Farms," Stevens explained.
While in Washington Stevens will take part in a panel discussion on different approaches to end domestic violence.