Latest News

Celebrating Our Recovery Court Graduates

Often it’s the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self. – Karen Salmansohn

There are a great many things that seem uncertain. That’s why Families Free believes that now more than ever we need to highlight the good and champion positive outcomes. We want to celebrate the graduation of Danny, TK, and Nena from the First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court program. 

On Wednesday, March 4th, our graduates were honored by members of the Families Free and First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court teams, as family, friends, and current program participants gathered together to congratulate them on their hard work and achievements.

Graduates Danny Hawks, Nena Thrift, and Torry “TK” Kelly
TK with family
Nena with two of her daughters
Danny with his sister and father
Judge Stacy Street
Judge Lisa Rice and Danny Hawks
Keynote Speaker Tim Hicks

We want to thank Keynote Speaker Tim Hicks, Judge Lisa Rice, and Judge Stacy Street for speaking during the graduation ceremony. We also want to thank the other members of the FJDFRC team, which include additional recovery agencies, judges, law enforcement members, district attorneys, and public defenders who work to ensure the success of the participants. We are excited to see how Danny, TK, and Nena continue to make strides in their recovery and bring about positive change within their own families and our community as a whole. #LoveRestores

The First Judicial Recovery Court program is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

MeredithCelebrating Our Recovery Court Graduates

Dear Community Members …

While the Coronavirus is changing many aspects of our daily lives, it can’t impact the principles we deeply value at Families Free – our sincere desire for restoration, justice, and love. 

We are taking the CDC and Tennessee State Department’s recommendations to heart because protecting our community means protecting our clients, our Families Free staff, and our community. 

We are very mindful of our population of clients who are largely employed in service industry sector who will be most profoundly impacted by the current state of emergency. 

We are seeking charitable donations to begin a benevolence fund. Families Free is positioned to respond expeditiously to provide food, shelter, and basic needs through our current processes.  

We are reaching out to our valued partners to ask for help through a one-time donation to Families Free that we will specifically earmark toward community benevolence for those affected. Families Free is grateful for each of you, your support, and your heart to help those actively involved in the restoration of their families. #LoveRestores

In loving service,

The Families Free Community 

If you are able to donate to our benevolence fund, please visit our homepage and click on the “donate” button at the top.

MeredithDear Community Members …

Introducing: Celebrating Families!

Family is where love and strength reside, and fostering those tenets is a large part of our work here at Families Free. That’s why we are excited to integrate the Celebrating Families! program into our services. 

On January 30th, we held our first Celebrating Families! meeting where participants embarked on a 16-week education program designed to work with every member of the family to strengthen recovery from alcohol and drugs, break the cycle of addiction, and increase successful family reunification.

We want to extend a heartfelt thanks to NorthPointe Community Church for hosting and to Tim Burchfield of Chick-fil-A Johnson City Crossing for sponsoring the meal. #LoveRestores

MeredithIntroducing: Celebrating Families!

Learning About Boundless Compassion …

“Redemption is possible, and it is the measure of a civilized society.”

– Father Greg Boyle

Earlier this week, members of our staff and several clients attended the King Institute for Faith and Culture’s event featuring Father Greg Boyle. He is the founder of Homeboy Industries, author of the 2010 New York Times bestseller “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion,” and in 2014 the White House named Father Boyle a Champion of Change.

Father Greg Boyle with Families Free Senior Staff
Tabitha Sells, Lisa Tipton, Father Boyle, Rachel Adams and Robin Ledford

Father Boyle shared his experiences with Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. In 1988, his parish began employing and training former gang members in a range of social enterprises, and they provide critical services to thousands of others in need.

We also had the immense pleasure of meeting Father Boyle, and our team left feeling inspired by his endless dedication and compassion to serve his community. #LoveRestores

MeredithLearning About Boundless Compassion …

All Is Calm, All Is Bright

The days surrounding Christmas can be filled to the brim, but then Christmas Eve arrives, and we are invited to be still and know; to reflect on God’s perfect love. 

“His plan is for us is to live in His love … He knows love is powerful enough to pull us outside our heads long enough to take a risk for other people. Let’s let perfect love be more powerful than fear.” – Bob Goff

We don’t often talk about the notion of fear when Christmas is mentioned, but fear can even be present during times of great celebration. Fear can cause some of us to fall back on destructive habits and can stop others from loving those around them.

It was His love that sent us His son – the redeemer. It’s redemption and the daily practice of letting God’s perfect love serve as our guide that is in keeping with this season of hope. Choosing love over fear is a risk, but it’s worth it to see how #LoveRestores our community.

God’s perfect love is always at the forefront during our annual client Christmas parties. It’s a special time when our team, board members, and clients come together to fellowship, share the importance of Christmas traditions, build gingerbread houses, and experience the effects of healing firsthand.

In addition to the IOP Christmas parties, the opportunity to hand-deliver care packages to inmates at the Johnson City Detention Center provides us with a very personal moment to share and see God’s love. Knowing that the women we met with will be spending the holidays away from their family, we wanted to ensure that they can take the time to enjoy a Little Debbie cake and receive much-needed items such as toothpaste, a new toothbrush, and shampoo. We also provided them with a devotional to have by their side.

From all of us at Families Free, we want to thank our board members, volunteers, JCDC administrators and correctional officers, and First Christian Church for facilitating the opportunities to reflect and show love this Christmas.  #LoveRestores

MeredithAll Is Calm, All Is Bright

2019 Recovery Court Graduation

“It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness …”

On Tuesday, November 26th, Chris and Kristin were honored by members of the Families Free and First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court teams during our second annual Recovery Court Graduation. Along with current program participants, family, and friends, we all gathered together to celebrate their hard work and success.

The First Judicial District Felony Recovery Court provides alternatives to jail time, such as counseling, curriculum, and access to several opportunities that are designed to support their sobriety. It’s an important tool for those who need help staying out of the cycle of jail time, being released, and then returning.

Through this opportunity, both Kristin and Chris completed the five phases of the program and met personal goals along the way. Kristin maintained two jobs during her time in our program, bought a vehicle, has been sober since July of 2018, and she’s investing in her future by attending classes at Northeast State. 

Chris has been sober since October of 2017, completed the Morgan County Residential Recovery Court, had his license reinstated, and he continues to support his success through our program by securing safe and sober housing. Both graduates have displayed perseverance in achieving goal after goal, and in combination with their hard work, the accomplishment of completing the Recovery Court program serves as an inspiration to not only their fellow participants but also every person they meet. 

Judge Lisa Rice
Graduates Kristin Nelms and Chris Hagy
Joshua Rice shares a poem he had written honoring a friend he had lost due to a substance abuse disorder
Rachel Roden – Felony Recovery Court Coordinator
Graduate Chris Hagy with Judge Stacy Street
Graduate Kristin Nelms and Judge Lisa Rice
Jason Abernathy and Brian Bowman (who performed at the graduation), Judge Lisa Rice, Families Free Executive Director Lisa Tipton, and Clinical Director Robin Ledford
The FJDFRC team and participants invited community members to join us in lighting a candle to join in the work we are doing in the area.

We want to once again congratulate our 2019 graduates, and our team looks forward to seeing how Chris and Kristin continue to bring about positive change not only for themselves but for our community as well. #LoveRestores

We want to extend a special thank you to Judge Stacy Street, Judge Lisa Rice, Joshua Rice, Jason Abernathy, and Brian Bowman for speaking and performing during the graduation ceremony. We also want to thank the other members of the FJDFRC team which include additional recovery agencies, judges, law enforcement members, district attorneys, and public defenders who work to ensure the success of the participants.

The First Judicial Recovery Court program is funded under a grant contract with the State of Tennessee, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Meredith2019 Recovery Court Graduation

Stories of Hope – Our Third Annual Fundraiser at Chateau Selah

What a difference a year makes …as we gathered together once more for our annual fundraiser at Chateau Selah, the beautiful rolling hills that serve as the venue’s backdrop mirrored the awe-inspiring changes we’ve seen take place in 2019.

Families Free feels so blessed to see the difference this year has made in the lives of those we serve. We have walked alongside so many women, children, and families through our programs, and we were excited to share the impact each program has made with our honored guests.

Fundraiser attendees had the opportunity to engage in three different program experiences, where they could learn more from our respective directors how Families Free programs offer services that not only impact the lives of clients but also our community as a whole. Because our programs are interconnected, vulnerable populations in our area have access to care that supports healing and transformation throughout every aspect of their lives. 

These program stations were nestled among a carefully curated event designed by sponsor Reclaimed Inspired Goods. Our emcee for the night, Kevin Wilson, helped kick off the festivities by introducing our Executive Director Lisa Tipton. Lisa shared with our guests an additional overview of our services and the details of the latest addition to our programs: The Storie House.

Our guests then enjoyed a delicious meal provided by Divine Catering Company and desserts from Bellafina Chocolates and New Maven Macs. Next, we all had the pleasure of hearing the musical talents of Barry Bales and Ronnie & Garnett Bowman before hearing stories of hope from three of our clients: Amanda, Layla, and Tiffany. With courage and vulnerability, they shared their individual experiences and detailed working with Families Free helped them change their lives.

Tabitha Sells then shared the story of her community-focused social enterprise: New Maven Macs. New Maven Macs was established for the sole purpose of being a network of healing, hope, and opportunity. Alongside Bellafina Chocolates and our team at Families Free, women in recovery have a trusting and supportive point of re-entry into the workforce.

Because of the aid and encouragement of our community, we continue to expand our outreach and in turn, impact the lives of those in need of hope, love, and restoration. With donations and pledges from our fundraiser, we have reached almost $85K and plan to open our next private residence this fall. Through faith and hard work, we look forward to so much more to come … #LoveRestores

Thank you to our business sponsors BBT, BBT Wealth, and McGriff Insurance Services, Chateau Selah, Bales Farms, Reclaimed Inspired Goods, and Universal Wines & Spirits for supporting this event.

*photos courtesy of Jared Roach

MeredithStories of Hope – Our Third Annual Fundraiser at Chateau Selah

2019 At A Glance …

One year can make such a difference, and 2019 has been no exception. We feel so blessed to see the difference and impact this year has made in the lives of those we serve, as we have walked alongside so many women, children, and families throughout the different programs offered by Families Free. 

Meredith2019 At A Glance …

Thoughts On Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a beautiful time for many of us, and spending the day with family allows us to create memories we will cherish. However, Mother’s Day can also be a difficult time for those who are dealing with loss – which can come in many forms.

MeredithThoughts On Mother’s Day

How Can a Seed Die and Still Become a Plant?

The seed, which contains the fullest potential of life, ceases to be a seed so that the plant inside may live. Essentially, its original form has died, and the seed becomes something new. A similar question can be asked – like the seed, how can you die unto yourself and live anew?

MeredithHow Can a Seed Die and Still Become a Plant?