IMG_9962Humility is one of life’s hardest lessons. And it’s a lesson Stacy Hollis was forced to learn.

Stacy was living with her mother in New Brockton and working in property management. She had been working as a bookkeeper and property manager for 150 rental properties for five years, when Stacy was told that $12,000 was missing. Thinking that a deposit was just made in the wrong place, she and her boss began investigating and—after her arrest–found that $93,000 was missing from several accounts. Stacy maintained her innocence, doing everything she could to try to figure out what happened to the money; her boss claimed to believe her but fired her anyway. Several months later, a detective called, requesting she go to the police station. Stacy realized she needed an attorney. Months after that initial call, she was arrested and charged with theft of property. For four long years, Stacy fought the charges.

“I fought as long as I could,” she says. “I knew I didn’t do it. That was a hard, hard time. It’s painful.”

Getting ready to go to trial, Stacy lost her legal representation when she couldn’t afford to hire a CPA to do an audit. Even though she offered to make payment arrangements, she couldn’t find anyone to help her. About that same time, she found out she was pregnant. The day she went to work to tell her boss that she was pregnant, she was fired. They allowed her to stay and train the new property manager so she maintained a job for about one month. Looking back, Stacy now believes that all these things happened for a reason—so she could be a help to other people through her own experiences.

“All three things happened in one week’s time. It was a very painful time and my world was falling apart but I did have good family support.”

Stacy went to court and was appointed with an attorney. Her court date was delayed so her attorney could get up to speed on the case. He told her she would only be put on probation and would not do any time if she pled guilty. A week away from the court date, Stacy’s attorney had no character witnesses, no court appointed CPA and nothing else in place to help Stacy’s case. Stacy knew that they were not prepared to go to trial and her attorney pushed her to make a decision on the spot to change her plea to guilty.

“I was so tired, I just gave up. Part of me is still mad that I didn’t keep fighting because I knew I didn’t do it. But I went back to court and changed my plea to guilty.”

On April 15, Stacy took her son to school, came home, put her daughter in her baby swing. She had her phone on silent so it wouldn’t wake the baby. After doing a little house cleaning, she checked her phone and found a message at 8:58 from her attorney saying she was supposed to be in court at 9 a.m. She never received a notice in the mail telling her about her court date. Immediately, Stacy found a sitter for her daughter and headed to Enterprise for court. They went through the process and the judge went on the DA wanted—13 years of probation and 18 months of prison. Stacy couldn’t believe the judge’s decision. Stacy’s attorney could offer no reason as to why the DA asked for jail time even after they were advised to change the plea.

“When I heard 18 months in prison I remember thinking there was no way I just heard what I thought I heard. All I could do was cry.”

Stacy had one week and a half to say goodbye to her seven month old daughter and 15 year old son. Her son moved to Texas so he could live with his father. He didn’t want to go but it was what Stacy felt was the right thing to do. Stacy didn’t want her son to visit because she didn’t want him to see her in jail. She didn’t want him to make those kind of memories about his mother. They talked on the phone and wrote letters. But she did see her daughter. Her boyfriend brought her to visitation and she was always happy to see mom.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I can’t ever get that time back and that’s what hurts the worst,” Stacy says.

As hard as the time spent in prison was, Stacy is now able to see the blessings hidden in the situation. Three hundred women were housed at Montgomery Women’s Facility. The loud, crowded prison had no air conditioning. Stacy was able to work at Wendy’s through a work release program. Working at Wendy’s was a humbling experience for Stacy. She was often treated differently from the other employees due to the fact that she was an inmate. The prison kept 40 percent of her salary plus $15 per month for laundry. But Stacy knew working and doing what she was told was her ticket home.

“I learned almost on a daily basis that I had to trust God. God taught me to be humble and depend on him.”

Stacy’s boyfriend hired an attorney to try to get her out of prison early. After her shocking experience the last time she was in court, Stacy was hesitant to return. So she turned to some bible verses she had saved about fear. Before her incarceration, Stacy felt she was led to read the book of Jeremiah. She believed that she was being told that though she may struggle, God will prevail. She felt that God was telling her not to be scared. Stacy went to court and argued that she could pay more restitution if she was allowed to leave jail and get a full time job. Based on that argument, She was allowed to come home early.

“It was painful but I am so thankful,” she says.

Stacy’s daughter was 20 months old when she got home. While there was a transitional period for a couple of weeks to get reacquainted, her daughter never forgot who her mom was. Stacy’s 17 year old son still lives in Texas. Since her early released was based on Stacy finding a full time job, she immediately went on a job search. She was hired by one company but was asked to leave after they found out about her charge. Once again, Stacy felt she could see God’s hand in the events of her life. Even before her experiences, Stacy wanted to help people but didn’t know how. While in prison, she took Healthy You’s Just the Facts: Life Skills class and signed up for case management. She knew employment would be hard but everything lined up so she could be at Healthy You. She now works as Resident Manager at Genesis II, Healthy You’s transitional home for formerly incarcerated women.

“I absolutely love my job. God taught me and protected me while i was in and he still is,” she says. “I feel like I am helping these women but they also help me.”