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GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Sheena Beasley believes in second chances.

“All of us have broken the law. We just didn’t get caught,” she said. “I just want our community, society, not to judge.”

Beasley’s life and future changed nearly 40 years ago when she was convicted of a felony.

“When I was sentenced in 1985, mercy was shown to me. Not only by the physical judge that pronounced my sentence but also by the heavenly judge. He gave me mercy.”

Sheena didn’t serve jail time, but she endured judgment as she worked to get back on her feet. It was that experience — along with what she calls “divine given vision” — that led her to create The Almond Connection.

Since 2016, Sheena has worked to help people in Guilford County with certain felony convictions learn to live productive lives. She helps them become self-sufficient over the course of a two-year program.

“First, there’s that budding process where the seed is planted. Some growth is there. The second stage is that blossoming process where you see some maturity and you see that person changing as they go through the program’s services. And then that third process is where they bear fruit. In bearing fruit you want to share that goodness of the fruit with others,” Beasley said.

The Almond Connection works to help participants secure a place to live, find health care, counseling and legal assistance along with other necessities like food, clothing and finding a job so that they can support themselves.

Doctor Kathryn Addo, a nonprofit consultant, is helping Beasley grow the nonprofit so they can help people nationwide. “She understands it’s a little bit broader than just providing services to clients in the local community. This is a national issue that needs attention at a national level,” Addo said.

Prison Fellowship recently awarded Beasley the “Charles Colson Advocate of Hope” award for her services to those who are incarcerated. “I am still in awe,” she said.

Beasley says that support and encouragement from organizations like the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro make her work possible.

She hopes that neighbors will get involved in that work too, and offer compassion and second chances to those who deserve it. “I just pray society will accept these individuals who have made that mistake but have also made the decision that ‘my mistake does not define me,'” she said.