< Return to Transformation Village
Transformation Village Stories
Season of Giving
They call Christmas the “Season of Giving” but Transformation Village was blessed all year long and seemed extra special for the residents and staff. In 2021, we celebrated a lot of firsts including our first holiday season at TrV. The community felt safe once again and wanted to come out to volunteer and we were so happy to safely welcome them into our much larger facility! In December over 300 giving hearts joined us in service by providing much needed support through special events, craft nights, additional assistance in our reception and administration departments, helping in the kitchen with cook teams and food service, facilities maintenance, donations sorting – and decorating for Christmas!
Our women and children were blessed with many gifts from the community this year, but this outpouring of love and support through our volunteers made this time very special for everyone at Transformation Village. Thank you to all who joined us last year and to those who have continued to serve alongside us through the many obstacles put before us with covid.
We wanted to share what one volunteer group said about their experience serving with us:
“Transformation Village is an astonishingly amazing place. The facility is quite spectacular. The ladies were “really”, very appreciative. Many of the residents were beyond grateful and thankful. Healing and wholeness is happening.
The ladies and staff are worthy of our prayers, in the name above all names, Jesus. May Jesus be glorified in this place.”
If you feel called to serve, we want you here, to be a part of the healing and wholeness that is happening at Transformation Village. Please contact me and we will find the perfect spot for you: email@example.com
— Shannon Paris, Volunteer Coordinator
Gaia Herbs and Jesse Israel & Sons
It’s been four months since Transformation Village began its active operations and while we’ve continued to settle in, one thing was still missing our outdoor landscaping. Thanks to Gaia Herbs and Jesse Israel & Sons, we were able to not only get many of the plants that were needed, but we also received the gift of having them planted!
On Thursday our plants were delivered and by Saturday afternoon our entryway was filled with new life. We want to give a special thank you to Kate Renner (Farm Operations Assistant Manager) for organizing the work crew from Gaia Herbs and to CFO Bill Cave who worked alongside his crew to get the job done.
Feeling the Love with Elevation Church
Every year during the last week of July, Elevation Church celebrates “Love Week” by going out and serving in the community in multiple ways. This year Transformation Village was happy to be a host site for their Dignity Kit building with 75+ volunteers coming in to serve alongside one another. The kits provided feminine hygiene products for women within the community, including those in our facility. In addition to their day and a half of service, they also served dinner for our residents. We definitely felt the love from Elevation and are so appreciative of their service to our ministry.
New Mount Olive Baptist — Pamper Me Gorgeous
The 2nd annual “Pamper-Me-Gorgeous” Spa Day came with a powerful message in connecting beauty with inspiration. Naomi Waller had the idea in 2019 to create a day of relaxation for the elders at her current church, New Mount Olive as a way to show appreciation to women 65 and up and for their countless acts of giving and paving the way for women today. In conversation with Carolyn Cronin, Director of ABCCM’s Transformation Village, they decided that it would be a great idea to merge two visions in support of a group of women who experienced hardship within the past year. Naomi along with 25 beauty professionals in the Asheville area was able to create a spa-like experience at Transformation Village within 2 weeks of planning.
Angelica Ortiz was a key player assisting Naomi Waller, Lakiesha Lee, and Tiziana Severse as they planed the 2nd Annual ”Pamper-Me-Gorgeous” Spa Day. Haircuts, manicures, pedicures, facials, make-up, child enrichment, spiritual support, swag bags, and even a photo booth were donated to make this experience memorable.
Naomi and Lakeisha Lee, who are members of the Black Wall Street Cohort, were supported by other small black businesses who donated natural beauty products and more. It has always been Naomi’s dream to elevate and inspire women through beauty. As a licensed Cosmetologist and Beauty Consultant she is determined to enlighten women by putting a new spin on beauty.
All at Transformation Village are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to many more collaborations with Naomi Waller and her team in the future.
A Homeless Veteran’s Journey: Jessica Massey
My journey to where I am today is a complicated one, but one at this point which has redefined my entire identity. My childhood wasn’t traumatic, or troubled. In fact, I would say it was pretty ok in my opinion. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood, with my grandparents. My grandfather a retired Marine and my grandmother a parochial school teacher, My father worked full time in a town two hours away, in order to provide for my endless hours in the dance studio and competitive dance team… my grandparents stepped into ensure I had a roof over my head. I moved through middle school joining the new ballet company, and performing with the regional theatre company, thinking all in my life was cake. Or what I thought was cake. My freshman year of high school ended up defining at the time the entire rest of my life. I had no idea that in the fall of 2001 that I would lay my entire existence down to enlist in the military. In fact if you had told me at my birthday 14 days prior to that terrifying day that I would be in a recruiter’s office, I would have laughed you out of the room. Nevertheless, 9am on September 12, 2001 I was. My uncle in fact told me at Christmas that year the image of the ballerina he knew, holding a rifle was boggling to him. I spent high school in the US Air Force DEP (delayed enlistment program) preparing for my ship date, to go fight for my country and figure out why terrorists wanted to blow us up. My first military curve ball came a few weeks before I left for boot camp. I had enlisted to be an Air Traffic Controller, not an easy job by any standards, but another recruit in my same district wanted the same AFSC, so I was between a rock and hard place.
The Air Force only allowed a certain number of recruits into that class a year, and so with myself having the lower ASVAB score was booted from the class and in jeopardy of losing my ship date for boot camp, unless I was willing to select entering the Air Force as a Security Forces member. I had no idea what I was doing to myself at the time. I knew all I wanted to do was run towards the front line anyway I could. The military still had a strong stance on women in combat positions, but some jobs still placed us in combat situations, so I agreed to my new contract and off I left 90 days later. My military career however isn’t something I neither need nor want to advertise. War is a hard subject and something that I would need more pages than I think this computer would like to provide for me to explain my life back then. I will however tell you this. Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. Defensor Fortis. Let those who desire peace, prepare for war, Defender of the Force. I would lay down my life any moment of the day for my country. No matter what the consequences might be. My exit from the military however did fracture my soul in ways I sometimes struggle to explain. My ex-husband and I met then, had our daughter, and then he deployed to Afghanistan which brought him home with his own PTSD. I have learned over time that you cannot place to survivors of war under the same roof.
I suffered regardless in an effort to protect my daughter. In a matter of 3 months after my daughters second birthday I became a convicted felon. How I got to that point is irrelevant, what matters is my journey after. It is so easy to point blame, but in the end how you embrace and learn from your faults ends up defining your future successes. So I embrace the many things that placed me in Prison. There are many people I would have never met, things never seen, and skills never learned. Things about myself I never would have seen and in some cases still don’t, but am told are there. Losing one’s self is an easy accomplishment in prison and I actually achieved this during the pandemic. Yes I was one of a lucky 105,413 people that experienced COVID-19 in the custody of the NC Department of Public safety. Now some may think I am being sarcastic when I say that, but actually I am not. I was forced out of my work release job at a local Asheville business which took me 2 ½ years to get, back into a total incarceration at Swannanoa Correctional Center for Women. Now I guess I should explain how I was able to work among the free world during my imprisonment. The State of North Carolina, once one accomplishes a minimum level 3 while in custody can obtain a regular job at a local area business that is contracted by the Department of Public Safety and work to save to pay restitution or save for living expenses once released from incarceration.
So fast forward to 2020… yes good old 2020. Once declared a pandemic, I was taken out of work for my safety, and that of the facility till further notice. I woke up the first 3 weeks hoping that I would return to work, the hope of continuing to save money for my release, knowing that when I got out of prison I would be alone and have nowhere to go or nothing to my name. Slowly time ticked by as did my hope that I would return to my beloved housekeeping job… by May when my next door neighbor was preparing for her release home after a let’s just say very long stay with the prison, I was lost. I was losing my social circle and really didn’t know how to cope with the loss of what stability I had in prison. Lucky for me though, she started taking me to the prison chapel. Now I do have to tell you that prison chaplains hold a certain reputation. You only hear from them when something happens to your family that is on the outside, or at least what I thought. As I started spending my days at the chapel, I started to learn a few things… not just about prison… about life, and the struggles of the women that are incarcerated. I got to know two of what in my opinion are the best Prison chaplains the state has. My opinion may be slightly biased however; they have become my mentors in my journey with Christ and in life. Covid forced me to take a very hard look at myself, and who I was…the things I had seen, and done in my life prior to prison, and figure out how and who this new person was. Over many weeks I began this path of dealing with losing my child to my ex-husband, losing my closest friend while deployed to an IED attack, and realizing that my mental health was not great. In fact I was borderline suicidal. I was angry and didn’t want to be at the chapel, but something about those 5 chairs under a tree kept dragging me back. The first year of COVID I spent slowly figuring out who I was and who I was becoming. Which right now are A veteran, A student, and a voice for Prison reform and social justice. I didn’t know it then however. I spent days writing, and reading…listening to stories of racial injustice, seeing racial injustice, and slowly remembering as Christmas started coming, that I was going home in 6 very short months. ABCCM had been a faint vision in my path to freedom, and I wasn’t ready to see this colorful world…in fact I had been seeing my life in prison in monochrome. Technicolor was still a far way off. As January came along my release was being a stark reality and I needed to figure out what to do. I had no money, no place to go… nothing to my name, but a pair of much destroyed New Balance sneakers I had literally walked my toes out of, and the few possessions that were housed in my locker. It’s amazing how one can learn to live out of a foot and a half of space. My case manager and I had discussed connecting with the VA Criminal Justice outreach office and looking at homeless shelters in Wilmington. It scared me. The thought of living on the streets was becoming a very real possibility.
When I started talking to the VA though I found out about this great soon to be facility called Transformation Village. Don’t worry about the waitlist; they told me, they would help me. I was a veteran, I wouldn’t be homeless. Hard to wrap your mind around when I had at this point been living at Swannanoa for 3 ½ years. But true to the word of Tracey Childers ABCCM gave me a spot at Transformation Village. It was a great lift off my shoulders, but I still had a problem. God. I still was in that rock and a hard place with him. I didn’t know how to feel about the things I was working on and how to embrace this whole I am a beautiful beloved child of god line I had been hearing for several months. Little did I know though, it wasn’t a problem…I was handed a phone number with this wonderful name, and tiny picture for a ride to this small tiny church, that didn’t care if I just had got out of prison. In fact they were excited to get to know me. I stared at the chaplain and had no words for this odd situation. I was 4 days from my release by then. I could wrap my mind around my own name at that point. So I left prison on June 3 2021 with my release papers, a blanket, and the clothes on my back and some basic hygiene items, and found my way to Transformation Village.
Here is where things get interesting. I was fresh out of prison, and because of some miscommunication with my social worker at the prison and myself, found myself in an Uber to get a COVID test so I could stay at my new home, and trying to absorb my new freedom. Thank God for Roberta. There was a lot of “It will be Ok baby” that day, but I made it. I even got a welcome hug from Carolyn that morning…so it had to be ok. I embraced quarantine and managed my first night out of prison with flying colors, with Sunday coming fast. Thankfully I managed to get permission for church, and bright and early my ride with the tiny picture came to spring me free from the pretty view of the trees. She has become a close friend now by the way. My entire church family has become close friends. They did take me in, and even shuttle me to and from work every day in Black Mountain, while I save to get my own car. My pastor listens to me when I’m angry at god, and reminds me it’s ok to be angry. He even reminds me that this is what it is to be human.
Between my church and my new family at ABCCM I have these new wings that are growing, because of simple encouragement between my support system and case managers I had the courage to apply for school, and was accepted to a program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. So this beautiful computer lab that I am using to write this quick story about myself will help me further my education as I work towards completing my masters. I don’t know how I will use this education yet… the world isn’t ready to embrace us Felons completely so I can’t use this education yet… but hopefully in the future I can. My journey isn’t complete yet and one that is slowly still progressing, but I can tell you this. If it wasn’t for ABCCM I would be on the streets, with nothing, and no hope of ever becoming something. Carolyn, Beverly… really the whole team at ABCCM sees it though, and between them and my Jesus Fam as I call them I know I will be ok. I may still only have the shoes on my feet and a bus pass to get around, but I know that if I continue to see the best of my self-every day, I will make it. I won’t be the statistic to go back to prison, the statistic to be one of the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day from complications of PTSD, and I won’t be a homeless veteran, because I have way to many people that won’t let me fail. So in the end let me leave you with this, because if nothing else I learned one thing in the time I spent in the military, Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. If you desire peace in your life, then prepare for all that is to be hurled at you like a bullet from a gun. You may lose a daily battle every now and then, but if you keep preparing, you will win the war.
Verner Center for Early Learning is known for creating holistic learning environments that help build communities where every child and family has an opportunity to thrive. At the end of June, Transformation Village had the privilege of welcoming a team of enthusiastic volunteers from Verner into our facility and they completely transformed our Child Enrichment Room so that volunteers and children can have a comfortable place to spend time together while mothers take classes and complete job training. Thank you to Verner for creating a welcoming environment!
A very special thank you to the volunteers who come in to give our mothers the help and the peace of mind they need by giving special time to enrich the lives of the children that live at TrV. Please consider spending some special time reading books, playing games, doing a craft – activities that mom wouldn’t have time to do with them while she is in class or studying for a class. This is not “baby-sitting” – moms are responsible for finding day-care when they work and TrV cannot carry that responsibility. This truly is a creative playtime with little ones that will thrive with some extra special attention.
Before covid, several couples from Sardis Methodist and Reeves Chapel Methodist made four teams – one team (two couples) for each week in a month. Carol Brigman Campbell said, “There were so many good little kids that had a great time and really enjoyed it. One little boy, Daniel loved Charlie and Bill – he would run and get books and bring them to read.” After a little silence, Carol added, “The time we gave enriched us as much or more than them. The children needed us so much!”
Please come and be a part of enriching little lives. You can volunteer on a regular basis when there are classes for moms, or be on call, as needed. A couple, group or single volunteers are welcome! Give me a call at (828) 398-6985 or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we can schedule a tour and talk about how you can be a part of this great family!
–Shannon Paris, Volunteer Coordinator
Lee came to Steadfast House due to homelessness, but she did not let her circumstances keep her from pursing her dreams. Lee not only obtained her NC driver’s license, but she grew her savings account, received a phlebotomy certificate through AB Tech, and started a job at Mission! She was the recipient of a handmade quilt made by the aunt of our Marketing Director, Jeff Goss AND she’ll be receiving a piano so that she can continue playing music in her spare time.
We have no doubt Lee will thrive in her new environment.
It’s true what we say… it’s not just help for a day, but for life.
Dr. Liz Garbarino with Messino Cancer Centers has been a huge hero for the ladies at Steadfast House. She’s been such an example to others in the community by her generous contributions, bringing meals, buying toys and so much more. By doing so, her daughter had been watching her actions and sent us this sweet letter with her own money. Let us always remember, we never know who is watching…