HER 2021 Award Finalist: Delisa Jones
“Delisa is a selfless, tireless advocate for those in need and those coming out of prison. She knows first-hand the feelings of the marginalized, and she is the biggest advocate for all people to be treated with love and respect.”
Women’s Ministry Director, Memorial Road Church of Christ
A little-known haven has been developing in the strip mall at NW 25th and MacArthur for the past five years. Just outside the unassuming storefront of Second Chances Thrift Store, a sign reading “Free for the homeless” hangs on a clothing rack, while a folding table nearby offers free fruit and grab-and-go snacks. Inside, store owner Delisa Jones prepares burritos for sack lunches. About 75 people stop by for a meal every day. Jones knows and calls every one of them by name.
At the back of the store—beyond the gleaming household goods and beautifully displayed clothing—there is a walk-in pantry of canned goods and hygiene items. On Thursdays, Jones sets up a makeshift shower behind the building, an action that usually earns her a ticket from the local police. But Jones won’t be dissuaded. Second Chances is not her goodwill gesture; it’s her calling.
“It really works at Second Chances because it’s my life story, and I am them,” Jones said. “I deal with the women coming out of prison, because I was in prison. I deal with addiction, because I was on drugs for 30 years. I deal with homelessness, because as a child I was homeless. I deal with human trafficking and sex trafficking, because I was sold as a child into that world. I deal with domestic violence, because I was shot and stabbed and left for dead. I know their needs by way of knowing where people failed me.”
Jones employs the same people she serves: those coming out of prison, addiction, homelessness, or human trafficking. Second Chances benefits from a small army of volunteers and donors including friends from her church, Memorial Road Church of Christ.
“As a community, as a whole, it doesn’t take a lot of money—just a little effort and a whole lot of love—to get these people off the streets, into safe places, and away from bad situations,” Jones said.
Before founding Second Chances, Jones found herself drifting in and out of trouble. She was waitressing at IHOP when she noticed a woman who sat in her section every Saturday, leading a bible study. They always exchanged pleasantries, but one day a deeper conversation ensued. That’s when Jones found Jesus. As her faith grew, so did her desire to serve her “brothers and sisters in Christ.” Jones sold her belongings—a BMW, a Rolex and several Louis Vuitton purses—to open Second Chances.
“And then I didn’t have any money,” she recalled. “It was hard. I was just living on my credit cards, hope, and faith. But I knew I could sell clothes to pay rent, and I could give [those in need] food and water. I believed from day one that I needed to help them; more than just a clean pair of pants.”
Even with all of the lives Second Chances has changed, Jones yearns to do more. She dreams of a new store with a full kitchen and proper shower stalls.
“I get all these big kudos about what we do at Second Chances and, to be honest, I don’t see that I’m doing anything that’s a big deal,” Jones said. “I feel so blessed to do it.”