People / Public Affairs

One thrift store helps reconnect the lives of women in need

By: Ambria Washington

Connections for Life is a non-profit organization that is reaching out to women to help reconnect their lives after a period of being incarcerated.

Cortney Bradley, Connections for Life store manager, finally has a place she can call home after growing up in a troubled household in Arkansas.

“Any household that I lived in it was never a family base situation. There were always drugs, alcohol, cursing and fighting it was all of those things,” said Bradley. “So, when I got into Connections for Life. It is just like a family. They show you love, they show up compassion and no matter what you need they are there for you.”

Bradley said after graduating high school in Arkansas she found herself getting into trouble and serving time behind bars for six months in Tallulah, Louisiana.

“While I was there a couple of inmates had told me about connections how it was a really good program, and they know that I wanted to changed my life,” said Bradley.

Like Bradley, many other women struggle with trying to find somewhere to go after a period of incarceration. However, connections for life is program designed to help those women go from being dependent to independent in their community.

“We do that by providing a variety of different services housing, transportation, education. We help them get a job, reconnect a family and they stay with us for 12 months and during those 12 months we’re working very aggressively with them”, said Karen Stagg, Director for Connections for Life.

Stagg said the thrift store is the main funding for the program in which they do employ some of their women in the program. Stagg also said they work with a number of employers in the community that help to provide jobs for the women.

“Many of the woman keep the jobs beyond us and it is very common that they get raises and bonuses and promotions. They just need the chance and to be given a chance,” said Stagg.

In an effort to find participants, Stagg said she often travels to several prisons throughout the state to find potential candidates. She also said she usually sees a participant one to two times before that woman becomes released.

“Many of the women that were serve have children,” said Stagg. “So when I meet a woman in prison which is where I start the relationship and I asked them what are your goals invariably its I want to get my children back.”

Bradley said she has been able to achieve her long time goal after graduating from the program this summer in June.

“I’ve always wanted to go to school, so toward the end of my year Karen actually took me to BRCC through every step of the way through enrollment, admissions, financial aid all of it she was right there by my side,” said Bradley.

Stagg said there are many success stories that come from this program, but ultimately reconnecting a family.

“Even though they graduate, we are name connections for life for a reason. The women tend to stay connected to us,” said Stagg.

Stagg said the program rents an apartment complex to house the women and each receive their own apartment, however, they hope to own the their own  housing to house more graduates from the program.

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