Women in shelters run to race for a better life

A local woman turned her own tragedy into triumph for hundreds of women going through a tough time.

She founded a non-profit that helps women living in shelters or prison through fitness and nutrition. She's racing to help them get a better life.

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When life got tough for Theresa Strong, she turned her grief into acts of love.

"My husband, Tom, died in 2009 of brain cancer, the same year that the company I worked for went bankrupt, and that's when I started volunteering and exercising myself and learning what a difference that setting and achieving goals could make in my life, as it pertains to exercise and moving me forward day-to-day," says Theresa.

Theresa came up with an idea the following year to share her new knowledge that exercise and the right nutrition can make you feel better. She started the non-profit Bel Inizio, which means "beautiful beginning."

"Our women are in recovery from abuse, alcohol, drug addiction. Many have criminal backgrounds, and some are even still serving their prison sentence. The women have children, they're living in shelters or transitional housing, and they've made bad choices, but they've been really beaten down in the world too," states Theresa.

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She and her mom, Anne, are busy helping pick them back up.

"Our program uses fitness and nutrition education to build their confidence and their self-esteem. We do that by goal setting, exercising, day-after-day, a little bit twice a week for eight weeks, until they complete their first 5K race," says Anne.  

Theresa says most of the women she works with have never exercised and just the thought of it scares them until they see their bodies getting stronger and realize they feel better with a few lifestyle changes.

"They become more confident. They are more open. They are trusting. They laugh and the best part is they get a sense of community with the other women in the group, even though they may be living in the same location with these women. Our clients have generally been taught that life is a zero-sum game, and it's about me and through Bel Inizio, they learn that together they can accomplish so much more than they can separately," explains Theresa.

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The ladies learn at their workouts how to shop healthy and make smarter nutritional choices. Many of the ladies only have the clothes on their back, so Theresa's mother, Anne, started a sock drive. Her friends were on board from the beginning, 15 years ago!

"I expected 20 pairs of socks, but as word got around, the first year we collected 900 pairs," says a smiling Anne. Her sock drive has grown significantly since then!

"Two years ago, we collected 12,426 pairs. This year, I think because of the economy and the pandemic, we still collected 6,786 pairs of socks," exclaims Anne.

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In all, she has collected 50,000 pairs of socks to donate to people who are homeless right here in the greater Houston area and she continues to collect socks all year long. Giving ladies the much-needed staple is helpful and gives them a heartfelt sense of caring. This powerful duo has learned warm, clean feet, good exercise, and the right nutrition, go a long way to enhancing the lives of those down on their luck.

They have a big fundraiser coming up on May 18 at the Cadillac Bar in Houston at 6 p.m.

For more information about that and the organization click here.