Saturday, September 19, 2015

In Nashville, #LoveHeals

by Jaclyn Hugg

Thistle Farms Coffee Mug & Body Butter

Nashville - the city, not the TV show. Home to Vanderbilt University, the Tennessee Titans, and aspiring musicians of about every genre you can imagine.  Known for its Southern cuisine and charm, “Music City” had been a place on my domestic travel list for quite some time.  Recently, I had the chance to spend a long weekend there with RC, the creator of A Whispered Wish, and her cousins, Mike and Kristen.

RC & JH at the famous Bluebird Cafe

KZH & RC singing along in downtown Nashville

Naturally, we did a lot of the “touristy” things including: a quick stop at East Nashville’s Tomato Art Fest (yes, it’s as cool as it sounds), a day spent exploring downtown Nashville (think Bicentennial Park, shops on Broadway, and the daily farmer’s market), and a trip to Franklin, TN, which involved sampling pimento cheese sandwiches! But the one experience I haven’t been able to stop talking about since returning from our trip is that of our time spent at Thistle Farms and the Thistle Stop Café.

The Thistle Stop Cafe

From the street, both the Café and the studio/gift shop space look like any ordinary local, small business would. However, after stepping foot inside, and hearing about the mission and stories behind each cup of coffee, handmade greeting card, and stick of lip balm, I began to realize that this place is actually quite extraordinary.

Thistle Farms gift shop

You see, this organization is a social enterprise that assists women who have fallen into difficult circumstances – e.g., addiction, prostitution, and trafficking. These women are survivors that have been given the opportunity to participate in a two-year program, in which they live and work in a community that provides shelter, sustenance, medical coverage, and education/job training free of charge. Whereas the program is guided by 24 spiritual principles, what it (the community, its outreach, and its outcomes) all comes down to is the mantra (and hashtag!), #loveheals.

Thistle Farms gift shop

From humble beginnings (the founding of the residential community, Magdalene, in 1997) to a growing social enterprise – independent of government funding and designed to create real, lasting transformations – founder/author/Episcopal priest, Becca Stevens, has always proclaimed love as the driver behind meaningful social change. And it is love, indeed, that shows through in everything this organization says and does.

KZH & RC in the Studio & Gift Shop

In fact, RC, Kristen, and I were so moved by the #loveheals movement that we felt compelled to support the cause through purchasing a handful of products and writing this blog to create awareness of the real, sustainable change taking place for this group of Nashville women. We truly enjoyed learning about Thistle Farms, and recommend that both Nashvillians and visitors put this organization on their list of places to check out and support.

JH & KZH with their new Thistle Farms purchases

To learn more about Thistle Farms, visit their website at http://thistlefarms.org/.

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Guest blogger, Jaclyn Hugg, is a higher education professional based in Chicago, IL. Her passion for service stemmed from her involvement with AmeriCorps and Student M.O.V.E., as an undergraduate student at Buena Vista University, and has followed her personally and professionally ever since. Top causes she supports: education, animal welfare, women's health, and hunger and homelessness.


Photo Credit (All Photos): Jaclyn Hugg & Rachel Corell

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