Dorris Walker-Taylor: Senior Ambassador at Thistle Farms

For the past 25 years, Thistle Farms has provided free housing and clinical programs to women who are looking for a second chance at life. Their social enterprise allows women to work and reach financial independence by making candles, skincare, essential oils, and more. The women in the Thistle Farms program have experienced severe trauma and are able to build back their lives from the ground up thanks to the holistic programming. Dorris is a graduate of Thistle Farms and has worked with the organization since completing the residential program. Check out Thistle Farms products here and Dorris’ new book here!

How do women end up in the Thistle Farms program?


Some women came from homes where addiction was prevalent and they fell down that path. Some women were abused by people close to them. Some women were sold into human trafficking at a young age or were homeless on the streets. I had experienced all of that by the time I got to Thistle Farms. I had an amazing childhood until I was 12 years old, when I witnessed a troubled family member murder my father and assault my mother. The trauma was overwhelming, it destroyed my life. My grades became bad, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and eventually ended up with a marijuana addiction that turned into a cocaine addiction. I started trading myself for drugs and was in and out of jail. I was in survival mode for 26 years. A friend of mine told me about Thistle Farms and I called when I got out of jail. In November 2009, I walked into the program and everything changed.


Can you tell me about your experience in Thistle Farms’ residential program?


The program is for women who have survived human trafficking, abuse, prostitution, homelessness, and drug addiction. It’s a two year residential program where you receive free housing in beautiful homes while going through therapy, NA, and working as part of the social enterprise. Earning income is an important aspect. Once you have a job then you can get your kids back, you can afford education, you can get your own housing– it changes everything. There’s no authority figures in the house because many women have been abused by people in positions of power. We are supported and have 24/7 access to care if needed, but we are there on our own free will. I went from experiencing the worst that life had to offer to the best. Every survivor who walks through the door is given a chance. I learned that I have worth and that I deserve to experience joy. Graduates of the program are opening businesses, buying homes, and really excelling. Thistle Farms gives women their lives back.


What does a job at Thistle Farms entail?


My first job was in 2010 and I was making lip balms. After that, I worked in packing and logistics to send products around the country. I then became the Director of Events and traveled around the country with our founder to speak at events. Now, I’m the Senior Ambassador of Community Relations and recently became a published author. My book is called “Hope is Always Real”. It details parts of my story and explains the different facets of hope. The goal is to show people that even in the darkest of times, there is a way out. It’s amazing to think that I was trapped in a 10-block radius on the streets for 20 years and now I’ve been to every state in the US. Thistle Farms gave me that chance and allowed me to experience the joy in knowing my story is worth sharing.


What is the best part of joining the Thistle Farms family?


Whether you just got here last week or you graduated 10 years ago, we become sisters for life. New girls who come in and don’t think they can make it can hear our stories and have hope. It’s a circle of love. There have been over 300 women in the past 25 years who have gone through the two year program and gotten their lives back. We have a 75% success rate for women staying clean. This family loves you until you are able to love yourself, all we ask in return is that you give yourself a chance. Thistles are survivor weeds; they grow through droughts and emerge through concrete. There is a beautiful purple flower that grows from a thistle. We represent those flowers who are able to bloom out of difficult circumstances and turn into something extraordinary.