March and April were milestone months for us here in The Freedom to Choose family. Not only did we honor our official fifteenth anniversary (more formal celebrations are to come this fall!) but we also welcomed a new team member and led our spring workshop at Central California Women’s Facility (CCWF).
Even though our volunteer team at CCWF was much smaller than we’ve had in many years, we were mighty and our journey together was grace-full!
A participant sharing on our final afternoon reflected this. Maria voiced that she has been coming to FTC workshops for the past eleven years, but that this one would be her last. Using the skills she found in the workshops to center herself and speak her deep truth, Maria went in front of the board recently and was found “suitable” for parole.
Through all she has learned with us, she said, she was able to “heal the shattered parts of herself” and is now ready to walk into the free world as a whole, empowered woman.
Plus, Sara Avant Stover, our new Director of Operations, also joined our team in April and attended her first prison project with us at CCWF. We’d love to introduce her to you now!
Meet Sara Avant Stover
FTC: We know you just moved to Santa Barbara from Boulder, CO a few months ago. Why the move?
Sara: The short answer is that I followed my heart. After having lived in Boulder for ten years, I was ready for a change. While Colorado is a beautiful place to live on a number of levels, for the past few years my heart was urging me to move out to California so I could live near the ocean. I explored a number of places along the California coastline, but when I drove into Santa Barbara a couple of years ago, my whole body screamed: “This is it!” So, just before New Years this year, I made the leap.
FTC: How did you learn about FTC? Were you involved with USM or prison work in the past?
Sara: I’ve been a student of spiritual psychology for a couple of decades, but I had never heard of USM until I starting working here. I had also never been into a prison before, although I’ve been involved in bringing transformational education– similar to what you all teach here– to empower others (and myself!) deconstruct their own “inner” prisons. After I moved here I started looking to get involved with some local non-profits. While doing that, I saw the job posting for my position and it felt like a really good fit on a number of levels.
FTC: How was your first prison experience at CCWF then?
Sara: It was amazing. I was blown away by the kindness and caliber of all the volunteers and facilitators– both individually and as a team. I said to Bonnie and David on our way home from the workshop that I experience everyone as having such a pure heart. I felt honored to be in the presence of such loving, selfless service. Also, I had a powerful experience sitting in exercises with the participants, in what I was able to offer them and, even more so, in the wisdom they shared with me.
FTC: What are some of the things you’ll be doing in your role as Director of Operations here?
Sara: My role here, funded by a recent grant we received (yay!), is multifaceted. Bonnie and David first described my function as being a “hub” for FTC. I’ll be helping to build and refine the behind-the-scenes infrastructure of our team and systems, serving as Volunteer Coordinator (I have some cool things in the works for everyone!), hiring some new team members to help with the two new prisons we’re working with (SATF and CMC), and also offering support in other areas like strategy, vision, marketing, and development.
FTC: What are a couple of interested, non-work related things that you can share with us about you?
Sara: I have the most amazing dog in the world (I know I’m biased). Her name is Sadie and she is a rescue– a lab and an Aussie mix. If you come visit the office, you’ll likely meet her! I’m also going to be teaching a weekly women’s yoga & meditation class at Yoga Soup in mid-June. Women, you’re welcome to come!
FTC: Is there anything else you want us to know?
Sara: Yes, I’m very grateful to be here! Everyone has been so warm, kind, and welcoming so far, and I really appreciate that. Prior to joining FTC, I prayed to be used more fully by Spirit. Our country, our world, and our planet are in dire straits right now, and I wanted to collaborate with others and put my energy and gifts in more direct service to the solutions we most need right now. I feel that, by being here, my prayer has been answered! Also, if there’s anything that I can do to support you (or if you just want to say hi), please feel free to reach out. You can find me at email@example.com. I look forward to getting to know everyone, and you’ll definitely be hearing more from me through our emails and blog!
For the past twenty years, Sara Avant Stover has devoted herself to public service, spiritual growth, and transformational education. Best-selling author of The Way of the Happy Woman and The Book of SHE, she served as the founder and CEO of her own pioneering company prior to joining The Freedom to Choose Project.
Sara graduated Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Columbia University’s all-women’s Barnard College. After a cancer scare in her early twenties, she moved to Thailand, where she embarked on a decade-long healing and spiritual odyssey throughout Asia. Also the creator of the world’s first Women’s Yoga Teacher Training, Sara’s work has uplifted the lives of tens of thousands of women worldwide and has been featured in Yoga Journal, the Huffington Post, Newsweek, and Natural Health and on ABC, NBC, and CBS.