At the end of 2022, Women’s Bean Project moved into a new home that is eight times the size of the organization’s previous home in Denver’s Curtis Park neighborhood. More space means new larger automated equipment can move in and that means more bean soups, spice packets and dips can be made and sold at a faster rate. But even more important is that more space means more women can be employed. Since 1989, Women’s Bean Project has hired chronically unemployed women who have been lived with addiction, abuse, trauma and incarceration. Starting work at the Women’s Bean Project is a woman’s first step into a stable and healthy future.

For the Women’s Bean Project’s annual graduation and and fundraiser, Ready Set Grow, my team produced a video story, highlighting three different women who started working at the Bean in August 2022.

Here is a short vignette featuring Nichole’s story. Nichole was grew up in Crested Butte, slalom racing for the Junior Olympics.  She got into trouble a lot and when she was in jail, Nichole found out she was pregnant. She says her son saved her. Together, they moved to Denver for a fresh start.

“I’ve learned different professional and personal skills while being here, from learning how to advocate for myself and for others, which is something I’ve always been afraid to do due to trauma,” Nichole said. “And I’ve also learned how to be an effective leader, which is huge to me. I’ve had management positions before, and it just didn’t work, but now I feel like I have that experience where I can go in and be a good leader for any company.”

Nichole is gearing up for a career as a peer support specialist. Here is a look into Nichole’s story:

Larissa moved to the U.S. from Burkina Faso in West Africa. She left her home country with her young daughter in hopes of getting away from problems she was experiencing. Not speaking any English has been hard but working at Women’s Bean Project has helped enormously. She started working at The Bean in August 2022.

“Because my colleagues don’t speak French, I get a lot of help from them in pronunciation and practice in expressing myself in English,” Larissa said. “And they’ve really helped me learn to speak English more.” She surprised herself as to how much she has enjoyed food production work and knows with stronger language skills, she’ll one day move into a great new position that compliments her home life with her daughter. Speaking of language, Larissa gave closing remarks in front of several hundred people at the Ready Set Grow luncheon.

Here is a glimpse at Larissa’s story:

Michelle also started working at Women’s Bean Project in August of 2022 and calls her time with the organization.. “life changing.” Michelle’s past has included a lot of violent relationships which brought her self-esteem down. Her confidence has shot up immensely since working at Women’s Bean Project. “I definitely have been growing in my self-love and self-respect,” Michelle said. “This place has provided counseling and support and trauma skills that I needed to get my life back on track. Because of the work I’ve done on myself at the Bean, becoming a praise and worship leader and volunteering with animals at the local animal shelter are being realized. I plan to enroll at Red Rocks Community College and work towards a degree in musical performance. Michelle sang before the audience at the Ready Set Grow luncheon.

Here is part of Michelle’s story: