Charlotte, NC - From prison to purpose: a local non-profit agency is helping incarcerated women get their lives back on track.
Changed Choices helps meet women’s direct needs upon their release, including housing, transportation, jobs and counseling.
Nicole Thompson became affiliated with the organization before her release in 2013. Just talking to Thompson, you would never know she once called prison home.
"I ended up in prison by not listening to anything,” said Thompson. “I wasn't open for advice, and I fell in love with my boyfriend. And so, I didn't love myself enough. That was the spiral of imprisonment for me."
Thompson spent more than 16 years behind bars. During that time, she recalls feeling isolated, alone and at times unable to cope. But as her release date neared, those feelings subsided.
"I learned how to love myself, first of all,” Thompson said. “How to look myself in the mirror and with the regrets, be okay with it."
But Thompson knew in order to make it on the outside, she had to do something different.
“I needed some help with leaving prison,” she said. “You know, doing something different with going home."
That’s when she met members of Changed Choices.
"Our hope is just to wake people up,” said Melissa Muppert, client initiative manager for Changed Choices. “And then the women who have woken up and really want to make different choices, we try to equip them with every tool possible."
The organization provided Thompson with a roof over her head, job resources and daily motivation.
"I can just go and say, 'Oh, I feel like this and I don't know what to do,' or, ‘I'm going on a job interview,' and, you know, they can help me,” said Thompson. “You know they give advice, and those are the things I needed in life."
By helping fulfill Thompson's needs, the organization has given her a new lease on life.
“Because of them, it's made me a better person,” she said.
Thompson is now the house manager and a mentor for Changed Choices. She is also helping the organization launch its 12X12 Initiative, which is aimed at identifying twelve jobs for twelve formerly incarcerated women by 12/12 that pay at least $12 an hour. Their goal is to connect with local business owners who can help make this happen. If you’re one of them, you can find more information at www.changedchoices.org.