Remarks at the 2015 Grass Roots Justice Awards on April 29, 2015
April LaLand-Sentmanat, Alumna Client
Back in 1998, I was a 29 year-old, scared, troubled, criminally-prone crack addict and mother of five. A current resident of the Fulton County jail, rightfully charged with armed robbery, and facing a minimum of ten years in prison.
Fast forward to today. 2015. I have gratefully lived spiritually sober for many years. I am a woman of God today. I’m a married mother of five and grandmother of six. I am an author, an entrepreneur. I am an advocate in our community for women who suffer. I am also the CEO and Founder of Woman 2 Woman and Associates, and we are a nonprofit organization that assists women in crisis from domestic violence, substance abuse, and homelessness in south metro Atlanta.
So what happened in my life that changed me from being a condemned woman, to living a life only my dreams could have encompassed? And I can tell you honestly that it IS the Georgia Justice Project.
From the first initial visit, I knew I was with the right group of people. Their unwavering dedication and passion for people like me, lost and thrown away by society, was incredible. Because of their diligent efforts, their remarkable abilities, I was released with time served and probation, never to look back on that life that I used to live, just to help someone else.
Most amazingly, though, that was not the best part of the Georgia Justice Project. The BEST part of the Georgia Justice Project was that they remained in my life. The Georgia Justice Project gave me a family when my own family did not want to have anything to do with me. They ensured the success of my children and myself by constantly assisting us, AFTER my release. Christmas gifts. School supplies. Financial assistance. Employment assistance. Social services. And then they even went a step further to help me to leave the state of Georgia, with their permission, because I could not find employment, due to my convicted felon status. I was able to go to South Carolina, go to college, and graduate with honors. [Audience clapping.] Thank you.
And so how do I thank someone [tears] who gave me my life? I do that by living the standard of excellence that they gave me as a Georgia Justice Project alumna client. The day I met Doug, I was headed to court. And I was more scared and confused than I had ever been in my entire life. That day, Doug gave me a gift that has impacted my life tremendously. And it even impacts the way that I deal with my own clients in my organization. Simply, Doug hugged me. He hugged me, and he looked me in my eyes and said, “April, my name is Doug, and we are here for you. Everything is going to be OK. I just want you to walk through those doors, tell the truth, and we will be with you every step of the way.”
They have done that. For seventeen years, I have been a part of the Georgia Justice Project family. Ladies and gentleman, THAT is who the Georgia Justice Project is. Thank you.