& Free Trip to Margaritaville
Photos by Libby Rogers
“Common sense did not prevail and I found myself in a situation that would change my life forever,” said Renee Spivey in her autobiography, Once Broken, a Journey to Restoration(published October 3, 2017). In her book, Renee tells the story of her life, and how she was able to turn her life around.“I was determined not to be a statistic,”said Renee. Barely 18 at the time, and just out of high school, she was living with a friend and her husband (or rather, someone she thought was her friend) that led her down a path of crime.“I wanted to t in and be accepted. That’s why I did what I did, but God spared my life,” said Renee, “because when I was living with this particular individual, she was physically and emotionally abusive, and on various occasions, threatened my life.”Renee realized that, although it was the worst time, it ended up being exactly what she needed to get her life back on track. Thankfully, as her book reveals, her story did not end there. The experience, as bad as it was, helped her to grow, and see life more clearly.“It made me realize, that life is not a game… and I knew, that my mother had brought me up better than that.”
Renee grew up in Huntsville, Texas, and has lived in this area her whole life. She is married and has three great kids and a beautiful granddaughter. She works full-time for a local insurance provider and has been with the company for 22 years. She also attends the Huntsville Church of Christ on a regular basis. Renee enjoys reading and has always been an avid reader. In fact, she admits,“I enjoy reading much more than writing.”As a child, she remembers how much she always looked forward to the times when her school would take them to the library to pick out a free book provided by RIF (Reading is Fundamental -rif.org). According to Renee, she loves reading so much that she always keeps her Kindle on hand, and she also participates in various literary groups.
Reading and writing are not the only things that have been keeping Renee busy. She received her associate degree in Information Technology/ Web Design from the University of Phoenix, and she is currently a senior at Sam Houston State University, working on her bachelors in Business Administration. Renee says she has always been interested in business, and she feels it will help her in her professional career, should she ever decide to try a new venture or simply need something to fall back on. When she decided to start going to college, she was already in her 40s, and was only a part-time student, since she was also working full-time and had her family. She and her sister were also the primary caregivers for their disabled mother, before she passed. Managing everything in addition to nding time to do homework was very challenging, but thankfully, Renee added,“My husband Charles picked up the slack while I was in school.”He would go home after work and cook, to give Renee an opportunity to do her homework.“If it wasn’t for him,” she acknowledged, “I don’t know how I would’ve been able to do all that, because it was a lot.”Since then, she has learned to slow down and focus her attention on one thing at a time.“When you spread yourself too thin, you give a little here, and a little there, and don’t give anything your 100 percent.”At the moment, besides her family and job, her primary focus is on her ministry, “We Are Women of Worth,” which she and partner Tameka Edison co-founded.
“We were just sitting at her house one day,”Renee recalled,“and she was expecting a group of people for Bible study, but no one showed up except me.”ey began talking about what they wanted to do in life.“I told her that I ove helping people; I’m a nurturer. I’ve always wanted to help women, and because I am an ex-offender, I especially want to help women when they are released from prison.”Renee was released 32wrom prison in June 1997, and she remembers how hard it was when she rst came home. Fortunately,in September (three months after her release),she got her job with the insurance company, and she is still there 22 years later.
“We live in a very judgmental society,” said Renee. For the longest time, she didn’t want to tell people she had been in prison, but one day at church, Dr. Larry Wells was discussing getting to know people on a more personal level, and he said, “Tell us one thing no one knows about you.”So, I raised my hand and said, “I’ve been in prison.”Afraid of being rejected, she had never mentioned it before, but now, said Renee, “I’m literally an open book. And I am not ashamed, because God has blessed me. I wouldn’t be here now, if it weren’t for the blessings of God.”
One of the questions on a job application is, “have you ever been convicted of a felony?”Based on what they see on a piece of paper,“You are immediately judged before they get to know you.” at’s why I want to help women who get out of prison–help them get on their feet and help them become the best version of themselves.”For this reason, and from that conversation at her dining room table, “We Are Women of Worth”was born. It is a non-pro t organization aimed at informing, inspiring, and encouraging women from all walks of life to look beyond their past and help them and hope for their future by offering life skills, as well as personal and educational development.
Recently, their ministry spoke with the Department of Adult Probation, and as a result of that conversation, they are now on their list of resources for women who are being released from prison. Other assistance provided by their ministry includes: assisting with finding employment, computer skills, and filling out forms and applications (i.e., to go back to college, financial aid, Medicare, food stamps). ey also o erthe HISETExam (https://hiset.ets.org), which is a High School Equivalency Test comparable to the GED. All services are FREE except the HISET Exam because it is state-mandated. ere are 5 sections to the HISET Exam, and each section is $25, for a total of $125. It is not recommended to take all 5 sections at once, because it is too overwhelming. those interested in taking the HISET Exam mustregister and schedule it online.“If they need help registering, they can come here, and we’ll help them register for the test,” said Renee. they also have study materials and practice tests so they can get familiar. In an e ort to offset the cost, “We are looking to get sponsors to pay part, if not all of the fees (using vouchers) for the HISET Exam. We don’t want anything to hold them back,” said Renee.
Women of Worth Ministry, Inc., is located at 1212 10th Street, Suite E, Huntsville, Texas. they have only been at this location for about a year, but things are starting to pick up.Currently, both Renee and her partner work in the daytime and are therefore only available in the evenings. Renee also indicated that, through their ministry, it’s important to give back to their community.“Every year, we sponsor kids to give them Christmas gifts, and on the first Saturday in August, her church and their ministry collaborate to give away free clothes and free hot meals. Last year, we served about 300 people. It was just my partner and our families that volunteered. This year, we served over 450 people, and one of the ladies in the church also gave out school supplies. Next year, we were noticed that we need to plan for about 700 people! We enjoy it. We love giving back.” is is what she was called to do, says Renee.
Although she doesn’t do it for the recognition, Renee confesses it is nice being appreciated and recognized. In June 2018, she was a nalist in the AuthorOn e Rise category for the IALA (Indie Author Legacy Awards)held in Baltimore, Maryland. She was also featured in Sistah’s Place magazine, was nominated as one of the Top 40 Difference Makers in Walker County, and recently received the Humanitarian Award from the Roxie Douglas Learning Institute. Also in 2018, she published a prayer journal titled, thankful, Blessed and Sometimes Stressed, in addition to writing a blog, More than a Number.
Renee said she is a big fan of Priscilla Shirer, American author,Christian evangelist, motivational speaker, and actress, most recently known for her role as Elizabeth Jordan inWar Room. She is the daughter of renowned evangelist Dr. Tony Evans.“I would love to be able to write books at the quality that she does,” said Renee with great admiration, “She’s one of my‘She-roes’” and, if I ever met her, I would just fall out.”Adding, “I actually put that out on Twitter one day, and she responded. I told her I would love to meet her, and she told me she would love to meet me, too!”Needless to say, Renee took a screenshot of that tweet!
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11. ese are the words Renee tries to live by, and through their ministry, she hopes to be able to show these women they can have hope and a future. As for the future of the ministry, Renee foresees outgrowing their current office space, acquiring more computer space, and being able to provide full-time services, 5 days a week, including Saturdays (because some women may work during the week and may only be available on the weekends). Furthermore,“We also want to provide a space for women who need a transitional, rent-free space, for a maximum of 6 months, while they get themselves back on their feet,” said Renee.“We want a mobile truck, stocked with supplies, and to be able to provide care packets with personal hygiene items, etc. My partner and I currently pay for all our supplies out of pocket. Donations from people who want to support our ministry are always welcome, said Renee.“We can definitely use help.”