She met women living on the street. She gave them a home — and they built their future.
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Stand Together

Becca Stevens is no stranger to poverty.

All images by Stand Together and Welcometoterranova.

When she was five-years-old, her father was killed by a drunk driver. Impoverished both emotionally and economically, Stevens' family had to work hard to make ends meet. Poverty became a defining aspect of her childhood.


That was a big part of what drove Stevens to help others, especially the women she saw on the streets. So, as she grew into an adult, she started helping women who had been victims of violence, trafficking and prostitution by feeding them and bringing them to shelter.

"I just felt sick for them," Stevens says of the women she worked with on the street.

But there was much more behind why she was so drawn to helping these women: Stevens had been a victim of abuse herself, starting at the age of six.

Many of the women Stevens worked with had never felt safe in their lives. Prostitution, and the experience of being trafficked, was often a progression of the abuse they experienced. For many, it had started in their adolescence — now it was something they didn't feel like they could leave.

As she continued to work and talk with the woman in these shelters and halfway houses she was struck by two huge gaps in trying to help these women: The first glaring note was the lack of safety and security in shelters for women. Many women spoke about additional traumatic and abusive situations they experienced while inside shelters. Women trying to leave haunting and abusive experiences in their past were launched into subsequent unsafe and uncertain spaces. The second issue was the high cost associated with the shelters. If a halfway house charged $125 a week in rent, Stevens remembers asking herself, "what do you expect them to do to get that $125 a week?"

These women saw no way out of the cycle. Stevens wanted to change that.

An image of thistles inspired Stevens to create a social enterprise that has since helped more than 1,100 women break the cycle of poverty.

In Stevens' hometown of Nashville, she noticed that thistles grew everywhere.

“They're considered a noxious weed, but they can grow through concrete; through chain-link fences," says Stevens. "They are determined and dogged to bloom. They're just like the women. They're just like me. They're survivors."

She wanted to support women who, like thistles, aren't deterred by obstacles in their way. She knew the women she saw on the streets could reclaim their lives, but that they needed help beyond a one-night stay at a halfway house.

“I said, 'Look, some of the skills that kept you alive on the streets and kept you going — we can harness those," says Stevens.

So she came up with the idea for a "beautiful home" she would create, called Thistle Farms— a place where women could feel safe, start on a new path, and rediscover themselves.

"I wanted to say: 'you never have to go back to the streets; you never have to go back to prison; you never have to go back to an abuser in your life," she says of the mission of Thistle Farms.

At Thistle Farms, women become part of a community. They help each other thrive and empower others who've walked the same path to lead rich, full lives by giving back to the community — all at no cost to them.

In 1997, Rebecca Stevens welcomed five women into the program. Today, it's helping thousands of women worldwide.

But Thistle Farms doesn't just provide women with a home where their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met — it helps teach them how to become financially independent using skills they already have.

The women at Thistle Farms make products that promote sustainability and healing, which goes hand-in-hand with what the organization offers them.

The first product that the women at Thistle Farms made was a line of therapeutic candles crafted from healing oils. According to Stevens, the women involved in the process felt the healing powers themselves.

"That was the beginning of starting a business that was really not just healing but life-saving," says Stevens.

Today, they make everything from candles to body lotions and bath scrubs to essential oils.

Thistle Farms has also created several additional social enterprises that are thriving, a Global line to support worldwide partners, and a retail space and popular cafe in the heart of Nashville.

Through these ventures, Thistle Farms is able to provide survivors with physical and emotional assistance all while helping them forge a sustainable, financial path forward. The program has created over $1.5 million in income for women survivors in Nashville alone this past year, and Stevens and her crew are only working harder to reach more women survivors each year with services to help them heal.

Thistle Farms is able to persevere by creating opportunities.

And it's through partnerships with nonprofits like Stand Together that the organization is able to uphold and deepen its goal of helping women thrive and succeed in their professional, personal and emotional lives.

Stand Together knows that one of the best ways to end the cycle of poverty — one of America's greatest problems — is by empowering others to believe in themselves. That's why they find, develop and invest in innovative solutions, and social entrepreneurs, like Becca and Thistle Farms, that are removing barriers and successfully empowering people to break the cycle of poverty in their lives and uncover their true potential.

It takes time, but if you ask Stevens, helping people unleash their potential and believe in themselves and rely on their community is the best way to make an impact.

"Create space and time for people to do their own healing work," she says. "If you have time and space, love and trust comes."

To learn more about Becca Stevens and Thistle Farms, check out the video below:

To donate to their cause, click here.

Stand Together invests in solving the biggest problems facing our nation today in order to unleash the potential in every individual, regardless of their zip code. By supporting social entrepreneurs like Stevens who're close to social issues like homelessness and have developed innovative solutions, the company is helping combat these issues in ways that are working. You can get involved and find a transformative org near you at Standtogetheragainstpoverty.org.

To find out which of these organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

Usually when we share a story of a couple having been married for nearly five decades, it's a sweet story of lasting love. Usually when we share a story of a long-time married couple dying within minutes of each other, it's a touching story of not wanting to part from one another at the end of their lives.

The story of Patricia and Leslie "LD" McWaters dying together might have both of those elements, but it is also tragic because they died of a preventable disease in a pandemic that hasn't been handled well. The Michigan couple, who had been married for 47 years, both died of COVID-19 complications on November 24th. Since they died less than a minute apart, their deaths were recorded with the exact same time—4:23pm.

Patricia, who was 78 at her passing, had made her career as a nurse. LD, who would have turned 76 next month, had been a truck driver. Patricia was "no nonsense" while LD was "fun-loving," and the couple did almost everything together, according to their joint obituary.

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

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Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

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via Elliot Page / Instagram

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Page made the announcement on social media where he celebrated the joy of coming out while taking the opportunity to discuss the issues faced by the transgender community.

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