Kelly Wiley loves her job. As executive director of the 2000 Roses Foundation, she gets to combine a passion for shopping with her desire to make a difference in the world.
Step into the Rose Garden upscale resale shop at the corner of Tyler and Davis and you’ll likely be heartily greeted by Wiley as she moves energetically about the store stocking merchandise, answering customer questions and pointing out new arrivals. Executive director is a working title. It’s a good thing she seems to have a boundless amount of energy because there is always something to do with the roses.
The roses are the women to whom Wiley and Program Director Alonzo Harris offer a home, job training and ultimately, hope as the women learn how to become self-sufficient after spending time in prison.
Wiley stresses that the foundation offers, it doesn’t give. When they first started the program, they realized that just giving these women shelter and support didn’t teach them to work for themselves, and the originally allotted six months was not enough time for the women to really learn how to stand on their own feet.
With an eye toward stopping the revolving door that these women traveled back and forth to jail, Wiley and Harris spent the last four years researching proven methods and discovered the highly successful Delancey Street Foundation in San Francisco. As the only Texas facility modeled after Delancey Street, 2000 Roses, with help from the Eisenhower Foundation, turned the resale shop into a business training facility. The women must now commit to two years of training while on parole and are expected to hold jobs, learn how to maintain a bank account, keep a budget, get a GED, learn a skill, and contribute to the upkeep of the home. The key to success, says Wiley, is “making the women work to get what they need.” The longer program gives them ownership, commitment and incentive to stay out of jail.
The Rose Garden provides income for the foundation while giving the women a place to learn marketable job skills. Computer and retail training as well as craft and trade skills are available. In the last eight years, approximately 600 women have been through the program.
When asked about her favorite success story, Wiley finally picks one from many and talks about Rae. Bipolar and on drugs, Rae didn’t want to work with anyone. Wiley kept trying to force her to get a job but nothing seemed to be working. Finally Wiley went back to the intake sheet where she had noted Rae’s hobbies, her likes and dislikes. Discovering that Rae enjoyed working alone, Wiley sent her to the Texas Rehabilitation Commission where Rae learned to lay tile. Rae now has her own tile-setting business and also dabbles in landscaping.
To continue creating such individual transformations, the nonprofit 2000 Roses organization always needs financial contributions. The women’s housing needs extensive foundation work, new plumbing and restoration of floors, doors and windows. New computers for training would also be a great help.Additionally, volunteers are needed at the store to organize the warehouse, install new shelving and set up a point of sale system for inventory. Another way to lend support is to shop at the Rose Garden. With inventory that changes frequently, the store offers “a little bit of everything,” says Wiley. You can find designer clothing from Chanel and Armani, ball gowns for the upcoming holiday season, a wide selection of candleholders, home accessories, furniture, even diapers and baby wipes. New to the shop is stunning jewelry designed and crafted by the women in the program. Other inventory comes to the Rose Garden from overstocked stores, including donated closeouts and samples. With prices ranging from $1 to $600, the shop caters to every budget. Wiley not only runs the Rose Garden but also lives in the home with her “roses,” doesn’t take a salary and calls every day “a faith walk.” Serenly, she says she doesn’t worry about personal gain. “I just have to do my part and the Lord will do the rest,” she says, “It’s all part of a bigger cause.”