Your Neighbor: Being the change: Kenya Thornton passionate about helping people overcome abuse

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

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By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier

Kenya Thornton is a Winston-Salem native. She didn’t completely keep her roots in North Carolina due to her father’s job in the military. Subsequently, Kenya loves traveling, and completed her college degree from Boise State University. “After I graduated college, I traveled through Europe, Malaysia and Australia. I loved it,” reflects Kenya. “I finally landed back home in the Winston-Salem area after my travels.”

Kenya began working at Family Services. “My big passion is helping people. I went to school for social work. I needed to figure out how to make that possible,” mentions Kenya. Kenya stayed with Family Services for seven years before starting the Creating Opportunities for Others to Learn (COOL) program in 2012. Kenya wanted to start a program that focuses on the abuser taking responsibility for his/her actions, address the attitudes that encouraged the abuse, teach non-violent ways of dealing with interpersonal conflict, and really demonstrate how violence impacts families and children to them. The state-approved curriculum tackles these issues in a 26-week group session.

According to Kenya, Eliza’s Helping Hands was a natural partner to establish in 2015 to complement COOL. Named after Kenya’s grandmother, who was a major influence in her life, the community-focused organization is based on educational training, mental health services, and other support services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and social injustice. “Particularly with our victims, we offer programs that encourage them to mentally care for themselves. That encourages these victims, even kids to put themselves first,” reflects Kenya. “Anything that I have been positively exposed to that builds confidence I try to incorporate to the program.” One of those influences is equine therapy. “You really see how the person will just leave their problems at the door. Horses sense moods. They know when to take control. It’s neat to watch. It’s really important to encourage these folks to be active and not just offer a support group.”

Kenya is also practicing what she preaches. “I’ve started taking flying lessons to get my private pilot’s license at the airport in Davie County. My father, who passed away in August, was always a huge supporter of trying new things,” notes Kenya. “I could have said that I was starting a business running to the moon and he would have supported it. I’m very fortunate to have been encouraged by both of my parents in all of my adventures.” Kenya also notes her faith in God helps keep her grounded. “I have to stay really prayed up,” she emphasizes.

Our neighbor affirms Mahatma Gandhi’s wise words, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She also encourages all community members who would like to volunteer or needs help to check out these life-changing organizations.