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New Beginnings luncheon draws emotional stories from Abilene women

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ABILENE, Texas - New Beginnings, a transitional program for incarcerated women reentering society, celebrated its fifth annual luncheon Thursday by thanking volunteers and sharing emotional stories from the past.

Many of the women recounted their struggles with drug addiction, a common reason for incarceration. According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, more than 12,000 women are incarcerated this year and 29 percent are behind bars on drug charges.

Lorie Mellinger spent two years behind bars for possession of Adderall.

"It was heartbreaking for my family and probably for my oldest daughter, who was watching it all unravel," Mellinger said.

Anne McLean has been part of the New Beginnings program for three years. She hails from Las Vegas, where she was involved in human trafficking and drugs.

"It takes a long time … to realize I have an identity without being high," McLean said.

McLean says the struggle with addiction bonds the women together, and New Begnnings helps them find themselves.

"I feel good about myself, I know that I have a positive effect most of the time," McLean said.

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The women of New Beginnings plan to spend their Thanksgiving holiday by helping to serve a free meal at Lucy's Big Burgers.

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