A Piece of History,
Nathalie Sorrell, founder of Truth Be Told
Before Truth Be Told existed, I was a minister to women at Sanctuary Church, which was then called Tarrytown Baptist Church. I worked with women in this church for several years before going into women’s prison.
In February of 2000, I began volunteering at the Hobby Unit in Marlin, Texas and at the Lockhart GEO unit. I began seeing that my calling to serve “women like myself” included this invisible prison population I had never thought about before.
Founders Carol Waid, Suzanne Armistead and I were deeply involved with 12-step programs. When we began creating classes that became the foundation of TBT, these programs provided us with tools to help the women. Tools such as truth telling, respectful listening, owning responsibility for our own lives, and ways to make small communities of people safe.
We needed and received lots of help from others to go to the prisons. My husband paid for our gas. Beth, the church secretary, created posters and more. Women in the church wrote letters to prisoners who rarely got mail. (You’ll hear from two of them, sisters, below.) And the church gave us money from their missionary fund, even though they understood we were not in prison to convert or evangelize.
Before reaching adulthood, many young girls go through a juvenile probation system. One of our goals was to teach women in prison how to tell their stories to these girls. We hoped this would help younger women take different paths.
Most of the incarcerated women had horrific childhoods and lifetimes of traumatic experiences. We sought every creative way imaginable to help the women share, heal and support one another. This included 12-step work, creative journaling, creative movement and more. People from the community often stepped in to share their creativity and came away with a sense of awe for the women “inside.”
We became a non-profit service organization in 2003. Truth Be Told is not a Christian organization but one dedicated to the idea that all women need and deserve the care and support of others and their Higher Power (as defined by 12-step programs).
I hope you enjoy Sue’s and Lou’s story. They were senior bowling champions when I was a young mother looking for exercise and companions. They held the baby while I bowled and nurtured me as well. When TBT began, they were right on board with their own unique support!
Sue and Lou:
The story began with the ladies of Tarrytown Baptist Church (now The Sanctuary). We had a Women’s Day Out on a Saturday afternoon in 1998, gathering at the new home of Pug Bouldin in Lott, TX. Toward the end of the gathering Nathalie asked if each of us would take the name and address of one or two women, who were currently serving time in prison. She wanted us to write a short letter of encouragement. She encouraged us to continue the correspondence, if we felt the call to encourage these women. Out of the 12 names, we both took two names and thus started the many years of correspondence with women inmates. We are still exchanging letters with several of these ladies. As they responded to our letters, we began a bonding with them. Out of the four women we corresponded with, several have left prison and we heard from them for quite awhile but now we are corresponding with only one (Michele) and she is due to be released sometime before December. We have been writing her for about 12 years. I think we look forward to receiving her letters as much as she does ours. She is looking forward to the day she can visit us at The Sanctuary.
We continue to support TBT because we love the program as much as Nathalie and Carol do. We have written Christmas cards, birthday cards, graduation and celebration cards to the women in prison, as they usually do not receive any other correspondence while serving time. We have worked on fundraisers as Table Captains and helped wherever needed. We try to attend the Behind and Beyond Bars programs as we feel they are a very necessary part of the program. We have enjoyed meeting and being with the women as they come out of prison and tell their stories to all of us. It seems a lot of the women were at the wrong place at the wrong time and are wonderful people who just need support and love. We try to support TBT in that area. It is obvious that this program is working.
In 2000, at that gathering, TBT was just a “dream” for Nathalie and Carol. After many years of hard work and dedication by Nathalie, Carol, Shannon (TBT’S former Executive Director) and many others, this program is going full force. We are thinking back to other names that have touched our lives, such as Teri from Waco, Hope, Rhonda, Petra and Rene, Katherine B., and Deborah, just to name a few. TBT has become well known throughout the state and the prison system. We look forward to the day it is in every woman’s prison in the State of Texas. There have been many more people who have helped with this program and we are grateful for their love and support.
We have known Nathalie and Carol through our church and have seen the wonderful results of their diligent and hard work for these women. We have also seen the magnificent changes in the hearts and minds of the inmates through their faces and actions; their enthusiasm is infectious. We are truly blessed and proud to have been involved with all of them as this program has and will continue to grow.
Our many thanks to Nathalie and Carol who have held this group together and we have seen it grow into something quite unique and wonderful and certainly has been, and continues to be a blessing to so many lives.
In His Name,
Sue & Lou