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Boutique opens in Abilene to help female ex-convicts adapt

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ABILENE, Texas - Incarceration numbers for women have gone up, but one transitional house in Abilene is giving women who just left prison a chance to succeed.

New Beginnings Ministry Director Missy Denard said more than 450 women have requested to enter their transition program.

"This summer, women have been in and out," Denard said. "When they get out of prison, most of them have never even had a job before."

New Beginnings assists ex-convicts with resources such as housing and clothes, but now the organization has a resale boutique for them to work in.

"They want to change their life, they want to live a new life, they don't want to go to the same old places doing the same old things," Denard said. The boutique opened up two months ago and helps the women regain the confidence to work.

It has also become an outlet for one worker's art. Emily Whitten has suffered from a life long battle with drugs.

"I have been in and out of jail since I was 22," Whitten said. "I was on Meth, a drug called GHB, Xanax, I've done it all pretty much."

Whitten spent close to three years in jail. She said that's where she was able to hone in on her craft. Now she paints tables, canvasses, or anything else she feels could use a splash of color. She was known as the jail artist in the Dallas-area TDCJ unit where she was held, and some of her murals remain inside the prison walls.

"It does a lot for them mentally they know they're in a safe place and they are doing okay," Denard said.

All of the boutique's sales help fund the transitional house program. On Nov. 10, the group will have a luncheon to share more of their stories.

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The boutique is located at 2252 South 14th Street.

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