Regina Mullins-Greenlee delivers a talk entitled “Finding My Way Home” at the Great Falls Forum Thursday afternoon in the Lewiston Public Library. Mullins-Greenlee, a former prostitute, drug addict and victim of human trafficking, described her journey to recovery, and her participation in a residential community that is the inspiration for the opening of Sophie’s House in Lewiston. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — When Regina Mullins-Greenlee was at her lowest point, she threw a brick at a police car just so she would be taken to prison. She wanted to get off the streets, away from drugs and away from “turning tricks.”

“I didn’t want to live that way anymore, and I felt like if I had continued, I would’ve died on those streets,” she said during the Great Falls Forum on Thursday.

Two years later, when she made parole, she considered “doing something” that would keep her in jail because she didn’t want to go back to the streets. She didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Then, a friend told her about a fledgling program for women recovering from addiction, violence and trafficking. Mullins-Greenlee was offered the fifth — and last at the time — bed in the recovery house in Nashville, Tennessee now known as Thistle Farms.

That organization, which now runs five homes as well as a social enterprise selling handmade products that takes in $4 million a year, has become a model for recovery organizations around the globe.

On Friday, the Center for Wisdom’s Women in Lewiston will open Sophia’s House, a six-bed long-term residential community for women survivors of addiction, trafficking and incarceration. The center’s social enterprise, Herban Works, which offers salves and teas made from calendula, is already up and running.

Klara Tammany, executive director of the Center for Wisdom’s Women, said during Thursday’s forum that Sophia’s House, at 143 Blake St., has been in the works for more than five years. Mullins-Greenlee said she visited four years ago, before the renovations on the former St. Mary’s Hospital building began.

After graduating from the first Thistle Farms program, Mullins-Greenlee stayed put for two decades, serving as a residential manager for 18 years. Now she helps new organizations get started.

But, she admitted she was skeptical at first. She was in jail, and when offered a rent-free bedroom for two years, she thought it was too good to be true.

“To us it was always like, ‘you do something for me, I’ll do something for you,'” she said.

When she walked into the recovery house, she knew it was for real.

“It had a yard. I had a real bed, with a comforter. I walked into a home, not a house,” she said. “At Sophia’s House, they’re walking into a home.”

Mullins-Greenlee said the Thistle Farms enterprise, which makes candles and bath and body products, was created four years into the life of the organization because women in recovery had barriers to employment.

Even after getting clean and receiving workforce development training, Mullins-Greenlee said many were denied jobs due to their records. In response, Thistle Farms was born, providing jobs to those in the organization. Now, 70% of Thistle Farms’ operating budget comes from the sale of products, which are offered online and at the national chain Whole Foods Market.

Mullins-Greenlee said the Center for Wisdom’s Women will benefit from already having Herban Works in place, meaning women in Sophia’s House will have built-in job opportunities and skills.

Along with the six rooms for women in the recovery program on the third floor, Sophia’s House will also have five rent-generating apartments on the second floor. Tammany said the 11 residents will share a meal weekly, take turns making it, and share responsibility of managing the building.

Tammany said the number of organizations involved in getting Sophia’s House up and running has been staggering. Funds for renovating the building came from a mix of small and large grants and private donations. A ribbon-cutting will take place Friday at noon.

Thursday’s event was also likely the first Great Falls Forum to begin in song.

Tammany began by leading the group, and the huge crowd didn’t hesitate to sing along. The lyrics went, “There’s a river flowing in my soul, and it’s telling me I’m somebody.”


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