New Friends New Life Announces 2023 ProtectHer Award Recipients

New Friends New Life recently announced the 2023 ProtectHER award recipients: the Meadows Foundation and Yulise Reaves Waters, chief innovations officer at Lone Star Justice Alliance, which focuses on issues around mass incarceration. 

Created in 2013 and announced in conjunction with NFNL’s annual luncheon, the NFNL ProtectHER awards celebrate individuals, corporations, and other entities who exhibit exceptional support of women and children locally, nationally, or internationally. Past recipients include American Airlines, The Dallas Morning News, Methodist Health System, and Santander Consumer USA Foundation, Inc.

The award recipients will be honored Sept. 29 at the New Friends New Life annual luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency Dallas. Kerry Washington, an Emmy-winning, and SAG-nominated actor, producer, director, and lifelong advocate and activist, will headline the luncheon, a celebration of the nonprofit’s Silver Jubilee. Luncheon co-chairs are Tracey Nash-Huntley and David S. Huntley and Elizabeth Carlock Phillips and Kevin Phillips. Honorary co-chairs are: Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt, Gail and Dr. Gerald Turner, and Pat and Pete Schenkel.

ProtectHER Award recipient The Meadows Foundation recently launched a collaboration with NFNL as well as Bonton Farms to give survivors of trafficking and exploitation a chance at rebuilding their lives through work experience and income. The organizations broke ground on the Liberty Street Garden, which will sell organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs to farmers markets, local restaurants, and the community in the Wilson Historic District, the foundation’s nonprofit neighborhood. Members enrolled in NFNL’s Women’s Program will be hired for at least 90 days to work in the garden with the opportunity for promotion. The first full year of the garden’s operating costs will be paid for with a grant given from The Meadows Foundation, which has distributed more than $1.36 billion to 3,700 organizations across Texas since 1948.

“This incredible partnership gives trafficking survivors a tangible opportunity to soar above the limits of their past and achieve their dreams,” said New Friends New Life CEO Bianca Davis. “Limited education, a criminal record, and a sporadic or non-existent work history are major roadblocks to a woman’s ability to leave the sex trade and become financially stable. Through Liberty Street Garden, we can now offer a bridge to economic empowerment.” 

“Being the recipient of this award is an incredible honor for the foundation,” said Peter M. Miller, president and CEO of The Meadows Foundation. “When we began the Liberty Street Garden project, we knew how important it was to create a safe space for survivors to work and grow. Partnering with NFNL gave us the ability to collaborate with our tenants in a capacity that we have not before. Bringing this project forward brought a new perspective to the district and allowed us to impact our community in an unexpected way.”

ProtectHER Award recipient Yulise Reaves Waters is the chief innovations officer of Lone Star Justice Alliance (LSJA). As an executive team member, Waters co-leads LSJA’s strategy, operations, programming, and development. Previously, Waters was an assistant city attorney and lead community courts prosecutor for the city of Dallas. She also co-founded the Second Chance Community Improvement Program (SCCIP) in 2014, which became the first-ever felony community court in Dallas County and what is believed to be the first-ever young adult specialty court in the State of Texas. Under her leadership, SCCIP was awarded the 2018 National Association of Drug Court Professionals’ Equity and Inclusion Award for “excellence and leadership in demonstrating and promoting cultural proficiency in treatment court services.”

Yulise holds B.A. degrees in English, Spanish, and a B.B.A. specializing in Organizational Behavior and Business Policy, and a Juris Doctorate, all from SMU. She is a graduate of the 2019-2020 inaugural Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Racial Equity Now Cohort and the recipient of numerous honors, including SMU Dedman School of Law’s Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award and being named among D Magazine’s 78 Women Who Make Dallas Great.

“At New Friends New Life, we understand the intersection between sex trafficking and the legal justice system and the subsequent barriers that survivors face,” said Davis. “Yulise’s work reinforces that everyone deserves a second chance. Women who have been subjected to the horrors of sex trafficking face a myriad of extenuating circumstances that leave them trapped in this illegal industry. It is not unusual for them to find themselves in prison, whether from drug charges or other issues; however, they are the victims. We need constant evaluation and courageous change within our justice system, and we are impressed with Yulise’s ongoing passion and hard work to make a difference in the lives of survivors.” 

“I am deeply honored to receive this award acknowledging my efforts and the efforts of my colleagues at the Lone Star Justice Alliance,” said Yulise. “Each day, we work to serve clients ensnarled in the criminal legal system whose lives have been devalued, whose victimizations have been compounded and dismissed, whose futures seem uncertain, and whose resilience is unparalleled. Together with organizations like NFNL, we have the communal power to reimagine justice and to create pathways for survivors and others to reach their full potential despite the challenges of their pasts.”

For more information, visit New Friends New Life’s website.

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