AP NEWS

Florence group aims to help women after they get out of prison

February 16, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Tenacious Grace, a nonprofit women’s ministry in Florence, is getting new office space on Evans Street to continue its ministry to incarcerated women at the Florence Detention Center once they are released.

“We are one part traditional women’s ministry and one part jail ministry with ladies who have been incarcerated in Florence County,” said Cookie Cawthon, founder of the group. “We are building relationships with these women.”

She said the office will allow the ministry to continue these relationships when the women get out.

“Relationships are the key to continuing to help once they are released,” she said.

She said the ministry want to be able to help them find a place to live and help them prepare for a job interview, among other things.

“We are working toward a free recovery residence called Five Sparrow, a place they can go after they are released,” she said.

She said the ministry wants the women to come back to a safe environment.

The nonprofit was started about two and half years ago as a blog to encourage women. Cawthon said the group’s members started speaking at churches and other places, and the ministry began to evolve. It has been operating out of Cawthon’s bonus room and attic. There are six team members.

The members prepare release bags for the women getting out of jail. The bags include things like a Granola bar, bottle of water, lip balm, devotional book, a bookmark listing community agencies that provide help, a fast-food gift card, and feminine hygiene products. She said Grace Baptist Church has been allowing them to back the bags at the church.

The ministry started an event last year at New Spring Church and will hold it there again this year. More than 40 churches were represented at the event, Cawthon said.

Cawthon said their ministry is a marriage of a traditional women’s ministry with women who are survivors of hardships such as domestic violence, drug abuse, prostitution and others.

“Our goal is to form a beautiful community between the two,” she said.

“We will now have a public face and be more a part of the community,” she said.

She said they hope to up and running in March.

On Friday, their new office space, at 1512 W. Evans St., was getting a new coat of paint from Fresh Coat Painters. The franchise, owned by Russell and Wendy Fortier, provided its services, paint, time and labor to the cause.

Russ Fortier said they are part of a national company that encourages its franchise owners to participate in a program called Fresh Coat Cares.

“They encourage all owners to take on a community project once a year,” Russ said. “This was the opportunity for us to help a nonprofit that does good work.”

Wendy Fortier is also a member of Tenacious Grace.

Russ said their business is home-based.

“We bought the business in December 2017,” he said.

Tenacious Grace office hours will be 8:30 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The office is in back of the Bryan L. Rabon Certified Public Accountant building at 1512 W. Evans, Suite 4.