For 33 years, Denver’s Women’s Bean Project has helped thousands of women redirect their lives, and it all started with a job. WBP hires chronically unemployed women who have struggled with homelessness, addition, domestic abuse and incarceration. WBP hires women who struggle with self-esteem, confidence, trust and responsibility. After the course of the 9 month employment program, the women are finding full-time jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families and most importantly, these women believe in theirselves and their ability to hold a job and plan for a successful and healthy future.
“Coming to the Women’s Bean was the best decision I’ve ever made because I’ve gained skills.. leadership skills and communication skills,” Brooke said. Brooke admits communicating was never an easy thing for her to do. She looks back at her addiction to drugs as a failed attempt to overcome her insecurities. She ended up in prison, while pregnant, and that time allowed her to become sober and get focused on her priorities.
“My daughter has changed my life,” Brooke said, “I don’t want her to have to say, ‘where is my mom’ or ‘what is my mom doing?’ I just want to be there for her.” Since starting at Women’s Bean Project in August of 2021, Brooke has taken on every job with confidence and in just a few months, was promoted to a leadership position on the production floor. By the time Brooke graduates from WBP, she plans to have a job as a peer specialist (she’s currently undergoing training) and will have moved out of the halfway house and permanently living with her daughter.
Sabina also took on leadership opportunities a few months after arriving at Women’s Bean Project in June of 2021. “It makes me feel grateful that I picked this place to work and at first, I didn’t think I would fit in.” And at first, Sabina didn’t think she would like the work, she thought she should try to find a job in retail instead. Her focus and ambition have completely changed since last June.
“I have learned how to be a leader and how to train other people to do things at work,” Sabina said. “I can take apart machinery and assemble it. I have learned how to be a neat and clean worker and how to be organized and how to communicate more effectively with others. Women’s Bean Project has taught me how to be assertive.”
Sabina is a recovering addict who ended up in prison. She admits she thought drugs would give her self-confidence. Now, the responsibility she has taken on, the classes she is taking at WBP and the mentorship and guidance she is receiving have made her very sure of herself and her future. Upon graduation, Sabina wants to continue working in food manufacturing and one day, open a non profit organization that helps women who have struggled like she has.
Rocio grew up in a house with addictive parents and admits she never really learned any proper coping skills. So, when her own marriage ended, and when she didn’t see her children as often as she’d like, she turned to drugs with the hope it would numb the pain. The drugs only made things worse. Rocio ended up in prison. That is when she realized she needed to turn her life around.
When Rocio was released from prison, she recognized that she had a fresh start before her. She applied and was hired at Women’s Bean Project in August 2021.
“Since I started at Women’s Bean Project, I have learned to trust people,” Rocio said. “I have learned to ask for help. There are people out there who care, who want to help. Knowing I have people believing in me, I have learned to speak for myself and advocate for myself and get the help that I’ve always needed.”
As in year’s past, the Kyle Dyer Storytelling team has teamed up with Women’s Bean Project to produce these compelling and genuine stories for its annual Ready, Set, Grow fundraiser. In addition to the stories you see above, we also produced the following three super short stories, in which Brooke, Sabina and Rocio finished this sentence… “I dream of a day when…”
For years, the Women’s Bean Project has dreamed of a day when it can hire more women but their limited space on Denver’s Curtis Street prevented them from doing so. Well… the dream is coming true. Later on in 2022, WBP will move from it’s current 2,500 square foot building (a former firehouse) to a 20,000 square foot spot on West Alameda (formerly a used car dealership).
“We will serve more women.. and we’ll serve them better,” CEO Tamra Ryan said. “We’ll be able to operate based on the women’s needs rather than space limitations.”
Women’s Bean Project grew 40% during the 2020 pandemic and with the larger space, it will be able to hire up to 100 women a year.