KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A local nonprofit helping women who are getting out of prison is expanding its efforts Saturday.
Grace Restores Overcoming Women (GROW) gives women a place to live and plenty of support, classes, and skills to start their lives after incarceration. The program lasts between six months and two years depending on what each individual needs.
Starting Saturday, May 20, GROW will open a thrift store at 13007 State Line Road, Kansas City, Missouri. It’ll be open on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The clothes Chrisi Pennington is sorting inside the store don’t hold a candle to what it was like a few years ago when she was sorting out what it would be like to be released after a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence.
“There were some trials, with getting [my] ID and all that stuff and all these things just kept going wrong and so I was like, ‘If this is how it’s going to be I’d almost rather go back,” said Pennington.
Back then, she went into one of GROW’s home in the metro, living with other women finding their way back after finishing sentences.
“As soon as I came out, I had a support system,” Pennington said. “I had Lorrie.”
Lorrie Trout started the program after her own run-in with the law.
“I let [GROW program participants] know your past doesn’t determine your future,” Trout said.
Her program gives the women a stable place to live but also counseling and skills to help them succeed in whatever is next. One big obstacle for people coming out of prison has always been finding a job.
“Some have not received calls back or they will get an interview, they have an interview, and then they’re not accepted so when they get that turn down, that’s discouraging,” Trout said.
That’s part of the reason GROW is opening the thrift store, allowing the 15 women in the program right now to volunteer there, earning money for the program and picking up soft skills that can help them once they graduate.
“This is going to be a really good thing for them so they can just start opening up more and not be so shy or scared,” Pennington said.
Pennington says time behind bars can make people anxious and that can get in the way once they’re no longer incarcerated.
Trout says experiences like the ones they’ll have at the thrift store can prepare them for other jobs or for starting their own businesses with skills they pick up along the way.