NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The women in this room are success stories, survivors of trafficking, sexual abuse, and addiction.

“We want to be a witness to the truth, that love is the most powerful force of change in the world.”

At the core behind these survivors’ success is non-profit Thistle Farms and the love its founder, Episcopal Priest Becca Stevens, has for these women.

“Thistle Farms is a global movement for women’s freedom.”

The non-profit provides a two-year residential program offering women free group housing, healthcare, counseling, trauma therapy, legal advocacy, job training, and employment opportunities.

Five years after graduation, 75% of Thistle Farms graduates are living healthy, and financially independent lives. Becca started Thistle Farms 25 years ago because she saw a need to help the most vulnerable while volunteering at street outreach and feeding programs back in 1997.

“And so as I was a divinity school student at Vanderbilt University, as I was meeting with the women it just became apparent to me that really we needed a long term free program where women could become community and you know be strong leaders.”

Becca had been through her own trauma at a very young age and thus understood what broken felt like and what women needed to move forward.

“It dawned on me pretty early on that if you’re going to talk about loving women, you had to be concerned about their economic well-being,” said Becca. “That’s why we started a bath and body care company because women who had been on the streets since they were fifteen, had been abused since they were seven or eight years old, you know, they’re not great candidates for jobs. Just a background check disqualifies them. So, we started making candles, bath, and body care products, right here in Nashville, and people loved it.”

Thistle Farms grew into a cafe and storefront. There is even a major focus on policy changes to address the root cause of trafficking and exploitation. Becca has become that voice for change, a speaker, author, and entrepreneur, establishing ten justice initiatives raising $55 million in funding.

The goal is to make the world safer for women and Thistle Farms has become a model program.

“So today we have more than five hundred beds around the country that are long-term free beds for women survivors. We have more than thirty global partners around the world.”

And Thistle Farms has created confident leaders helping to grow the mission.

“Becca is a hero in my eyes because she was not afraid to show that she was broken, she was not afraid to heal, and she was not afraid to show us how she did it. So, this program has opened me up to so many possibilities spiritually, mentally, and emotionally like I’ve been opened. It’s really changed my life on the inside. When you change on the inside you make changes on the outside. And you don’t really have to go around and say, hey I’ve changed cause your lifestyle shows that you’ve changed,” said LaTisha Burns a program graduate.

As for Thistle Farms’ future, it continues to be about loving and helping even more women. There is a waiting list to get into the program and that list continues to grow.

So, we honor Becca Stevens as our News 2 Gives Back Hometown Hero for the month of May, presented by Trevecca Nazarene University, for founding Thistle Farms which provides women survivors love, hope, and healing, transforming, and saving lives.

To learn more about Thistle Farms and what you can do to advocate or grow the mission, click here.