I come from a Navy family. My mom and dad were both Navy brats and when I was a child, my father flew jets and landed them on carriers while we waited months and months for him to come home. Eventually, he became a commercial pilot, flying for Air Florida, Peoples Express and finally, Southwest Airlines.
I flew with him often. But I also flew by myself – at the ripe old age of seven. My parents divorced around that time and I ended up shuttling back and forth between them, jumping from household to household, city to city. It was, of course, different back then. You couldn’t say the word “bomb” in an airport, but I have clear memories of sitting in the cockpit for the duration of a flight. And I was never alone, flight attendants – friends of my father's – looked after me the entire journey. They would let me stand at the front of the plane to demonstrate the safety procedures because I had memorized all the words and hand movements. But when that was over and I sat down in my seat – the flight attendants busy prepping the drink cart – I would sulk, feeling brave but sad.
It’s hard to find comfort in an airplane seat.
I thought about those seats as I sat at Rethreaded, both a company and a community of sorts. I remembered the scratchy, blue and green fabric of Air Florida’s seats, the cool beige leather of Southwest’s... I chuckled and spoke about airplane snacks going from cheese and sausages to almonds and then honey-roasted peanuts. Stephanie Patton, the development lead for Rethreaded and a survivor of sex trafficking, looked up from her seam ripping and asked, “They used to be honey-roasted?! We still find one here and there jammed down into the seams,” she says, laughing.
I laughed, too. It’s a funny thought – the epic journey of a peanut. We sat outside, slowly unstitching leather seat panels Southwest Airlines had donated to Rethreaded. I picked up my seam ripper and thought about the millions of journeys those seats had been a part of, some good, some bad, and how they were here now – enabling new journeys, probably their most important.
I thought of my sulking on airplanes and how privileged I had been in reality, how lucky I had been to have safe homes, loving parents, a way to be with both of them... Some people land hard in life. Some of us make terrible choices. Sometimes the help you need just isn’t there. But we all deserve a chance. We all deserve hope.
For many struggling women in Jacksonville, Rethreaded offers a path to get there. It began when its founder, Kristin Keen, realized there was a tremendous need for a safe, supportive work environment where women could earn money while learning skills and experiencing healing through therapy and community. It works in partnership with the City Rescue Mission of Jacksonville and hired its first full-time employee in November 2012.
At Rethreaded, survivors of human trafficking make and sell a wide variety of products – from coffee and toffee to colorful blankets and leather goods. Each purchase helps directly provide job training and holistic services for survivors of human trafficking.
Patton, and her role as Rethreaded’s Development Lead, is living proof of what survivors can accomplish with the kind of help Rethreaded provides. In our next story about this exceptional Jacksonville company, we’ll speak in depth with Patton and share her story of hope, help and redemption.