Melinda Taylor, founder of BLOOMHERE, discusses the new nonprofit that provides space, time and tools to help women recover.
Written by Jessie Ammons Rumbley
Photography by Michael Cunningham
In a townhouse in downtown Raleigh, four roommates fill their days. They practice yoga, they exercise together, they meditate and they cook nourishing meals. They learn new skills, from how to balance a personal budget to art therapy. This is their healing rhythm, one they’ll sink into for two years. “We’re building these women a solid foundation,” says Melinda Taylor, founder of BLOOMHERE, an empowering women’s recovery organization. “They’re creating a sisterhood for life here.”
BLOOMHERE’s roommates are all local single women, ages 18 to 45, who have survived abuse, addiction, prostitution, trafficking or incarceration. Under BLOOMHERE’S restorative wing, they receive two full years of medical, dental, and mental health care, as well as housing and “whole person healing,” like the aforementioned art therapy, meditation and yoga. “It’s not sterile,” Taylor says. “It’s home. Women are living here, learning life skills, doing all the things they need to do to heal in a beautiful way.”
Besides the hard personal work, BLOOMHERE’s residents earn a living— not minimum wage—working for the nonprofit’s business, blending essential oils. Together with other at-risk women in the community, they make and package signature BLOOMHERE body oils which are sold online and locally. That revenue helps fund the program’s operations, creating a sustainable cycle for both the women and the organization.
“Giving these women an opportunity to be part of the mission is unique,” says Maggie Kane, founder of pay-what-you can restaurant A Place at the Table. “Everyone wants to be a part of something. For the women of BLOOMHERE, they get to be supported and contribute to this awesome organization, showing how much they care about it. They get a hand up versus a hand out, so it’s their mission and organization, too.”
Kane was one of the many Raleigh women who guided Taylor early in her vision. “The last two years of my life have been totally driven by faith and trust,” Taylor says. After a decades-long career leading corporate beauty sales in New York City, almost 10 years ago, she reckoned with her own childhood trauma. Taylor had managed to compartmentalize and focus on corporate success for years, but through therapy, she began processing and healing layers of emotional abuse. “I knew I needed to get help—and I had the money and the flexibility to go to therapy, to go to yoga… to do what we as women need to do if you’re trying to work through what you’ve experienced.”
She couldn’t shake the “calling,” she says, to change course and do something more. While traveling for work, “I wrote down ‘Bloom Here’ on a sheet of paper on a plane. I said to myself, ‘I’m going to help women.’ I never knew how or what that would look like.” Fast-forward a handful of years: a series of divine coincidences (and true love) landed her in Raleigh. A transformative yoga teacher training and retreat fed Taylor’s own healing. In June 2017—six years after that moment on the plane—she sold her house, resigned from her job, and took out her 401K to create her nonprofit, BLOOMHERE.
Taylor networked the Raleigh nonprofit community in earnest, including supporters like Kane, as well as the community at her yoga studio, Blue Lotus. She connected with Thistle Farms, a similar program in Nashville, Tennessee, with a 20-year track record of success helping women survivors create a fresh start and maintain productive, healthy, community-rooted lives. (BLOOMHERE is a sister organization of Thistle Farms; they operate separately but share best practices.) She made a plan, hoping to open the BLOOMHERE house in 2021.
Things didn’t go according to plan, in the best possible way. Dozens of women—Taylor calls them “angels”—pledged their commitment to help and to donate. One of them offered a townhouse rental property that is today the BLOOMHERE house. Many of them hosted an open house last summer, and quickly the entire place was furnished by donations. Other local women’s organizations connected Taylor with the first four women to start the program. By August 1, 2019, far ahead of schedule, BLOOMHERE opened its doors. “It has been a beautiful thing to watch the community embrace us and help us the way that they have,” Taylor says.
Kane agrees: “These women, surrounded by love and acceptance and support, have truly been able to flourish and do incredible things. All of us women who have been able to help and be a part of that have flourished as well. Everyone’s hearts and minds and acceptance of each other have opened. It’s been truly cool to witness.”
More than six months in, Taylor is full of gratitude for the BLOOMHERE movement and hope for its future. “Our vision is to end the cycle of abuse and homelessness, and to get women off the streets for good. I know we’re going to do it.”
To learn more and shop the body oils: bloom-here.org