Healthy Sisters make soup and change lives

In 2007, Maria Ray was 40 and had never held a job. The most important thing in her life was getting the next drink.But when she was charged with grand larceny and forgery, she found herself in the county's Drug Treatment Court, where she faced a stark choice: Get sober or go to prison. She made the better choice. At a residential treatment home, Ray met a woman who was working with the Catholic Family Center's Healthy Sisters' Soup & Bean Works program (formerly the Rochester Women's Bean Project).The program started in 1996 and has trained roughly 300 women, says social business manager Rafael Larramendi. Each woman has a history of substance abuse; many have never worked. They are trained in all facets of the operation production, inventory, sales and customer service.Healthy Sisters makes a variety of soup mixes (including six-bean, lentil, split pea, Cajun bean and chili) and several rices. The products are sold at many festivals but also at retailers (including Wegmans Food Markets, Parkleigh, Abundance Co-op and Craft Company No. 6). For more information, go to Maria Ray, the program was just what she needed to start a new life. "I had a great feeling of being productive for the first time," she says. "I loved having a place to go every day." In February, 2008, Ray graduated from the program, and took a job at a food services company. In 2010, she came back to Healthy Sisters this time as an worker and today she is project supervisor.Willie Jeanne Lester's path was different but also led to success. Lester has two children (both now adults). She had some college and a work history. She worked as an aide for a nursing service and her employer was prepared to send her to nursing school. She had opportunity, she had financial assistance and she had been a good mom until, in the midst of some hard personal times, she began abusing drugs and alcohol."My kids talked to me," says Lester, now 50. "They said, 'Either you do what you need to do, or you forget about us.'" He! r daught er, she says, asked her point blank: 'Do you want to live or do you want to die?'"Powered By

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