NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Women enrolled in the residential program at Thistle Farms have written 10,000 letters during the pandemic to supporters.
"At first I thought people don't read these, they don't read these, but they do because they love us," said Christy Farris, a resident.
The coronavirus outbreak forced Thistle Farms to close their cafe and store in March.
CEO Hale Cato said writing letters to customers and donors was a win-win.
"Let's use this time to thank the people who got us here today," said Hale Cato about the idea. "And our customer return rate went up 193% over last year."
Women in Thistle Farms' program are given housing and a job while they heal or recover from trauma like prostitution or addiction. Farris is part of this year's graduating class. Although she's not getting to have a traditional graduation, writing the letters was empowering.
"I wrote a lot letters because I thought... 'these people take their days and money and they share their love. It's the least I can do,'" Farris said.
To their surprise, people are not only posting the letters they receive to Instagram, they're also writing replies.
"I got some letters back in return, thanking me for the letter, congratulating me for completing the program, being a graduate. Lots of kudos and support from people I don't even know all over the country," Farris said.
Cato said these responses are heartwarming and have encouraged women to push through the pandemic.
"A number of employees we have here struggle with addiction. Addicts have really struggled and suffered as a part of the lock down so to keep people busy and engaged and doing something that they knew that every name that they were writing to was a part of their journey, that made it real," Cato said.
Thistle Farms Cafe and Shop are open again and following Nashville's COVID-19 guidelines.