The Dream Team Series highlights the amazing work of each of our staff members. Over the past few weeks, we’ve highlighted each team member on different platforms and mediums. Today, we’d like to introduce you to Katie Anderson, Second Chance Alamance Project Manager
How did you come to know Benevolence Farm?
I am not only a formerly incarcerated individual, but also a former resident of Benevolence Farm. I served close to a year and a half in North Carolina’s state prisons. Benevolence Farm has been my saving grace over the years. My reentry process was more difficult than my incarceration. I am still faced with some of the barriers that come along with the labels society places on us, almost three years post incarceration. Thankfully, I was hired at Benevolence Farm as the Second Chance Alamance Project Manager in the beginning of 2022.
In my role, I support and advocate for the women of Alamance County and North Carolina. I am also the manager at our Second Phase Housing Option in Burlington, which opened earlier this year. Here, I am able to achieve my goals of helping people during their own journey through the reentry process. My objective is to help make someone else’s experience a little less difficult than my experience was.
Another main reason I work with Benevolence Farm is because I am proof that change is hard, but possible. When a resident is faced with something that may feel as though they may never make it through, I am able to comfort them by showing them that achieving the goals they have set for themselves is very much obtainable. And every time someone reaches a milestone in their journey, I am pleased to be able to celebrate their victory with them. That may be the absolute best part of the entire experience of working with Benevolence Farm.
What do you wish people knew about our work here at the Farm?
I honestly don’t know how people are successful without the network of a program. I know if it wasn’t for Benevolence Farm there to help me find my path, I wouldn’t have made it on my own. I am one of the lucky ones; it’s so easy to slip back into that type of lifestyle without the support of a good network. There are so many requirements the legal system wants parolees to meet, it sometimes feels as though it’s all set up to make you fail.
If I could change ONE thing about the reentry process for the next person, I would remove housing barriers we face because of poor decisions in the past. I am not the same person who was arrested in 2018. I gave that person and lifestyle up when I hit my bottom in the spring of 2019. Almost three years after my release from prison, I still fight to be able to get someone to trust me enough to rent a home for my children and myself. I am forced to choose a home that most of the time isn’t in a good neighborhood or is likely to be in an unsafe environment. I cannot explain clearly how passionate I am to make finding housing a little more accessible for formerly incarcerated individuals who may have been labeled and are judged unjustly. We are a community. We MUST work together.
What is it like working at Benevolence Farm? Why should people invest in our Dream Team?
Everyday we are faced with complications or difficult situations. The Dream Team carries the weight of our world on our shoulders. We are continuously investigating new ways around some of the unrealistic expectations society places on our residents. This work isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a toll on you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some days are better than others. One day our hearts may be breaking because there aren’t any other options to offer our residents, and other days we are bursting at the seams because we can no longer contain our pride for our residents.
THERE IS NEVER AN UNEVENTFUL DAY AT BENEVOLENCE FARM!
That’s the rewarding part. Everyday we are able to witness the change happening for our residents right in front of our eyes. Our residents find their passion and confidence at the farm. We are the lucky ones. We get the opportunity to watch as our residents blossom into the women they are intended to be. Benevolence Farm is very much the family so many of us have needed for so long. Our residents come to our program with the urgency to do something different with their lives. To start completely over with new barriers to overcome is not an easy task. It takes invested time, resources, support and direction.
The staff at Benevolence Farm are the ones on the front lines fighting for our residents, encouraging them to do exceedingly amazing things. Step-by-step, we conjure up an action plan that will put our residents in the best situation possible. A place where they are able to meet their goals and focus on their future.
Any last thoughts?
I wouldn’t be here today without Benevolence Farm. All my basic needs were met and I was given a safe space to be able to focus on accomplishing the goals I’ve set for my future. As a participant in Benevolence Farm’s residency program, I found the true meaning of the word grace. I was accepted for who I was and who I wanted to become, not for what I was accused of doing. I never received this type of grace and respect before and I am eternally proud to be able to pay it forward to other women going through the same hardships I’ve experienced. I admire the hard work our residents do towards meeting their goals and I passionately believe everyone deserves to be celebrated every step of the way.
Katie Anderson is the Second Chance Alamance Project Manager at Benevolence Farm. Her journey at Benevolence Farm began as a resident, where she pursued her North Carolina certification as a peer support specialist. In her current role at Benevolence Farm, Katie supports and advocates for women in Alamance County who have been impacted by the North Carolina criminal legal system.
Photo Gallery: Earlier this summer, Katie took part in a USA Today photography feature.
For the full story, click here.
Photography credit: Stan Sussina