Friday, December 26, 2008

Good Stuff in TEC: Tennessee

Thriving Thistle Farms helps women recove

Cynthia Foster thought prostitution and shoplifting were the closest she'd come to a legitimate job, years ago when she was in the grips of addiction.

Now she earns her living by carefully measuring out sea salt and oils, and supervising the floor where 20 women make handmade bath and body products. She's part of a nonprofit company called Thistle Farms, where sales are growing and the brand is thriving despite a recession.

That success could mean more women recovering from lives of addiction and prostitution have a place to detox, grow spiritually and earn an income. The Thistle Farms products support the operation of the nonprofit Magdalene House, a two-year residential recovery program where women come from hundreds of miles to get a second chance, and being part of Thistle Farms helps the women gain job skills.

And the products allow their message to spread throughout the country: that prostitution leaves a trail of victims. Thistle Farms is in the process of setting up a contract with Whole Foods Body stores, a retailer that could help them double their reach and give jobs to several more women.

"We have graduates who have made their way, got other jobs and lost them," said Becca Stevens, an Episcopal priest who runs the Magdalene House. "We have a work force that's dying to work, and we have the product in place."

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