MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Dragonfly Thrift Boutique in Miami has all sorts of contemporary items you would expect to find: furniture, clothing, ladies’ accessories, handbags, and then there is the unexpected.
Every dollar spent helps women who are rebuilding their lives after being incarcerated. It’s part of a nonprofit organization called LEAP or Ladies Empowerment and Action Program.
CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo caught up with some team members to discuss their transition.
Store manager Nancy Denike is a participant, who is getting her life on track after serving a five-year sentence for fraud.
“Being incarcerated was not whatever I dreamed would happen for me the first time I was in trouble the first time I had anything to the court system or criminal justice system and that was an eye-opener.”
A former professional assistant, she was released last January and despaired over what was next.
“I didn’t have a place to go, so I was applying to different places to live and continue with my life, but because I didn’t have a drug problem or alcohol problem. It was difficult to find a place that would accept me. When I heard about leap it really was a godsend for me, they’re like my angels. I’m really really grateful”
It was founded by faith-based volunteers who visited women in prison, they saw the need for entrepreneurial, job skills and life skill classes, as well as substance abuse programming.
“They started to see that a lot of the women they were working with we’re coming back to prison. And part of the reason was that they couldn’t find jobs,” said Mahlia Lindquist, Executive Director of LEAP.
Counseling wasn’t enough. The boutique is where it comes full circle- providing a job, housing within walking distance, and donated items that fund the program.
As a former prosecutor, turned mentor, Lindquist hopes people see Nancy for who she is now, not the five years of her life behind bars.
“When she tells her story she talks about how she herself had preconceived notion’s going in and looked around and thought to herself ‘where are all the criminals?’ because the women that she met there are human beings with hearts and children and things that they care about. She’s incredible.”
Nancy is a great example of what the program intends to do. She’s working toward starting her own business, with entrepreneurial guidance from LEAP, and is moving forward.
“It’s like any kind of tragedy that you go through in your life- it is what you make of it,” Denike explains.
“You can decide to curl up in a ball or you can decide to start over, and that’s what this whole place is about.”
Take a peek through their Instagram page here.
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