A way out, a hand up, a clean sweep

Special Issue | Three charities from last year return as Samaritan Award Finalists

Issue: "Effective Compassion," Sept. 1, 2007


Strippers and prostitutes. Some 300-500 women work in Memphis strip clubs every day, according to George Kuykendall, director of Citizens for Community Values-and about as many walk at night on the city's notorious "Ho Track." The Memphis phone book lists 104 escort services.

CCV staff members and more than 100 volunteers partner with area churches to help women escape the sex industry. This year CCV's victim-assistance program, fittingly named A Way Out, has helped 31 strippers and prostitutes change their lives. Although she receives many calls for help, program director Carol Wiley said not everyone is willing to let go of the lifestyle: "We're very conscientious about making sure we get the women who really want help. The women have to be in a place where they're broken enough to want to make some changes."

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Hope Stansell experienced both sides of the sex industry-topless dancing and prostitution. She started stripping when she was only 17, after a friend talked her into it: "I started dancing for one of the more prominent clubs here in Memphis. I had to use a fake I.D. to get in there." She also drank heavily and used drugs as a way to escape from a troubled home with a single mom. When Stansell turned 20, she gave birth to a girl-"By the grace of God, she was born 100 percent healthy."

Stansell's drug dependency landed her in prison a year later. She got out and started dating a man she thought truly cared for her: "He bought me anything I wanted," including drugs while she was still in rehab. After rehab, Stansell's "boyfriend" started to show his true colors: "He started beating me and made me do things I really didn't want to do. That's when I realized he was no longer my boyfriend. He was my pimp."

Stansell eventually turned in her pimp to the police. She went back to treatment and met Carol Wiley, who gave Stansell and her daughter Hayle, 4, a place to stay while they participated in A Way Out. (Wiley said finding housing has always been difficult for CCV. A California couple that read about CCV in WORLD helped relieve that difficulty last year by contributing $70,000 toward the purchase of a house for the women in A Way Out.)

Volunteers provided Stansell and Hayle with food, shelter, and clothing. A Way Out offered her classes on subjects like parenting and budgeting. Her mentor also introduced her to the love of Christ. Stansell said her favorite part of A Way Out was "getting to know the Lord and having a relationship with Him." Wiley said: "I have a firm belief that apart from Christ coming into their life, they're not going to make a permanent life change."

Hope is now one-third of the way through cosmetology school. She and Hayle are getting ready to transition out of the in-house treatment center they've been living in for the past year. They will be moving into their very own home, for the first time.


The Knoxville, Tenn., branch of the Christian Women's Job Corps is another return finalist. Last year, WORLD told the stories of two participants in the nonprofit's program, A Hand Up for Women, whose lives changed. This year we'll tell another story, that of Angie Booker, who lives in a small, white house with green shutters in East Knoxville.

Two years ago, Booker lived in a housing project, used drugs, and spent a lot of time in a Knoxville courthouse: "My mother had my kids and my husband had left me. I shoplifted and wrote false checks to feed my drug habit. My life was in turmoil." Her case went to the local Drug Court, an alternative to prison for nonviolent offenders. A case manager there, who served on the board of directors for the Christian Women's Job Corps, noticed her and recommended she go to A Hand Up for Women. Though hesitant at first, Booker met Jani McCarter, an A Hand Up participant profiled by WORLD last year, and "Jani showed me so much love, it changed my whole personality. She taught me God loved me and I could do better-and He wanted me to do better." Booker met with McCarter and other women in a twice-weekly, three-hour evening Bible study. Each week she took drug tests, went to Drug Court, and reported to the probation office. A mentor helped her through every step of the A Hand Up program.


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