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Exhale

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LeVonne "Precious" Rish, 55, from South Carolina, says when she was 16, she disobeyed her mother, went to a party and never came home. Cocaine got ahold of her, and for 40 years, she says, she would do anything to feed her addiction. She cleaned hotels long enough to get a first paycheck. She even stole Bibles and sold them to "dopeboys" for drugs. She turned to prostitution to survive.

One time when she was in jail for theft, she heard cellmates telling the classic Grimm's Brothers children's stories but thought they were too violent. Too many wolves eating children and grandmothers. So Precious, who struggles with literacy, wrote her own stories with the only words she knew. In one of her first children's stories, "Little Miss Kiy's Sunday Walk," the dopeboys, the johns and the dirty men who took advantage of her are transformed into creepy characters who try to tempt a young girl walking to her grandmother's house on Sunday. Since then Precious has dreamed of being a writer.

This summer she got really high and tried to kill herself by stepping out in front of an 18-wheeler near Gastonia. Luckily the big-rig braked just in time. Precious wanted help, but many transitional homes turned her away because of her past. In August she connected with The Dove House on Holloway Street in Durham. At the faith-based transitional home for single homeless women she finds structure, support and healing.

She is learning to read and write while searching for a job.

The Dove House's new transitional housing and employment coordinator director, Benjamin Burnett, had started just a few days before Precious arrived and says he was moved by the "humility and brokenness" in her voice.

She was baptized across the street at Antioch Baptist Church on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013, in front of a mural of the River Jordan. She feels at home at Antioch because, she says, "the pastors call me by name." She plans to stick around Durham and write more stories and plays. Through motivational speaking she wants to use her past to inform people about the dangers of HIV and drugs.

AUDIO: hear Precious read her story



Little Miss Kiy's Sunday Walk by LeVonne "Precious" Rish

Every Sunday little Miss Kiy would take her Sunday walk to her Big Mama's house.

Before she would leave, her mother and father would say "Little Miss Kiy, don't talk to strangers!"

Her 2 big brothers would say "Don't get in no strangers' cars."

Little Miss Kiy would start her Sunday walk to her Big Mama's house.

The sun was shining when the Shade Man under his big shade tree said "Hello Little Miss Kiy, come sit under my big shade tree."

Little Miss Kiy don't talk to strangers.

She was almost to her Big Mama's house, when the Boogie Man in his Boogie Car said, "Hello Little Miss Kiy, let me give you a ride in my Boogie Car."

Little Miss Kiy don't talk to strangers.

Little Miss Kiy made it to her Big Mama's house where she had her favorite cookies.

Big Mama said "Little Miss Kiy, what did you see coming to Big Mama's house?"

I saw the Shade Man under his big big shade tree and I saw the Boogie Man in his Boogie Car.

It was time for Little Miss Kiy to leave when the rain came down.

There was the Umbrella Man under his big big umbrella.

"Hello Little Miss Kiy, come and sit under my big big umbrella!"

Little Miss Kiy don't talk to strangers.

She was almost home when the Boat Man in his big big row boat said "Hello Little Miss Kiy, let me row you home in my big big row boat."

Little Miss Kiy don't talk to strangers.

Little Miss Kiy made it home, and her mother and father said "Little Miss Kiy, what did you see going to Big Mama's house?"

I saw the Shade Man under his big big shade tree and I saw the Boogie Man in his Boogie Car.

It was time for Little Miss Kiy to go to bed. Her 2 brothers said "Little Miss Kiy what did you see coming from Big Mama's house?"

I saw the Umbrella Man and his big big umbrella, I saw the Boat Man in his row boat.

It was time for Little Miss Kiy to say her prayers.

"Dear God, thank you for my mother, thank you for my father, thank you for my 2 big brothers, thank you for Big Mama, and God thank you for your son Jesus who walked me to Big Mama's house again this Sunday! Amen!"

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