Journey of Hope brings meaningful change to trauma survivorsJan 05, 2023 03:28PM ● By Peri Kinder
From left, ABC 4’s “Good Things Utah” host Surae Chinn joins Jacey Thornton, Journey of Hope, economic development lead; Renee LeGrant, Journey of Hope executive director; and GTU host Nicea DeGering. Journey of Hope’s nonprofit platform received a $3,000 grant from SelectHealth for the work it does in the community. (Photo courtesy of Kimmi Wolf)
For 20 years, Shannon Miller-Cox served as a law enforcement officer so she could lock up dangerous people. As a survivor of childhood and adult sexual assault, she vowed to get perpetrators off the streets.
She came to realize the inequality in the justice system, where women in poverty had harsher sentences and were incarcerated longer than women of privilege. Miller-Cox retired from the police force and started Journey of Hope in 2014, a nonprofit serving abused and/or incarcerated women.
Jacey Thornton, Journey of Hope economic development lead, said the program saved her life. The nonprofit’s mission is to mentor women before and after they’re released from prison and help them navigate issues like housing, food and jobs, but also to support them as they move forward.
“We help them start their journey of hope and healing through peer support-led case management. It’s rewarding, it’s painful, it’s a lot of emotion, but as peers, we understand what they’ve been through,” Thornton said. “We provide the immaterial things like empowering women with a strength-based, power-centered focus to help them see how powerful they are. We really see people where they are and love them, without boundaries.”
Many women in the Journey of Hope program are breaking the cycles of generational trauma and changing the direction of their lives and the lives of their children. The organization is focused on ending the shame and the stigma that comes with a history of sexual and domestic abuse, incarceration, homelessness, mental illness.
Built on a platform of community, structure and safety, Journey of Hope’s mentors understand the correlation between childhood trauma, substance abuse and incarceration and addresses those aspects to help women find success.
“For these women, there’s no safety and no security. Our first thing is to help them feel safe and let them know we’re always here,” Thornton said. “I found as I’ve shared my story, it empowers others to be bold, to not fear what people think about them.”
Thornton’s life journey took a detour when she was arrested and incarcerated as a college student. As a first-generation college student, the experience destroyed her. She asked her corrections officers to help her find a way to finish her degree, and in the process she learned she was surrounded by beautiful and caring people.
When she was released from prison, she started Seeds of Hope, a nonprofit focused on a community garden where women could find power in horticulture therapy. As a transgender woman, she has stepped into her role as a mentor and encourages women to find their voice.
“When we say people are heroes or villains, we’re really simplifying the human experience. We’ve got to do better,” she said. “We’re human and make terrible mistakes, but we are so much more than the worst things we’ve ever done.”
Journey of Hope was recognized by SelectHealth for the work it does for women in the community. The group was awarded a $3,000 grant to further their mission.
“The SelectHealth Awards is designed to highlight the notable work and contributions of organizations that are making an incredible impact in our community,” said Marti Lolli, SelectHealth president and CEO. “These awards allow SelectHealth to continue to show support for key partners and organizations who have a shared mission and wake up every day thinking about how to make a difference in the communities we serve.”
Headquartered in Sandy at 8160 S. Highland Drive, Suite A-3, Journey of Hope has served hundreds of women across Salt Lake County. For more information, or to make a donation, visit JourneyOfHopeUtah.org.
“We walk alongside you and we provide in a way that no one else does,” Thornton said. “We’re here only to serve other people….They saved my life. We’ve lost so many lives in the last few years and it’s gut-wrenching.”