When Felicity Huffman was given 250 community service hours as part of her sentence for her role in the college admissions scandal, she took the court mandate to heart.
Already an active volunteer for numerous charities long before the legal trouble, Huffman looked to add a new meaningful venture.
She landed on A New Way of Life, a Los Angeles-based organization that helps formerly incarcerated women safely re-enter their community, find housing and jobs, and become productive, thriving members of society. Founded in 1998 by Susan Burton, herself a former inmate and recovered addict, the ever-growing organization has helped thousands of women and their children in big and small ways find safety, support and skills as they transition from prison life.
Huffman, 56, who served 11 days at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California before her release on Oct. 25, dove into the volunteer work at A New Way of Life almost immediately, and has been warmly welcomed.
“Felicity is a such a down to earth genuine caring person [and] she’s been very helpful and supportive to the women here,” Burton tells PEOPLE.
“She has connected with them in a real way and you can feel it. I think that is because they know she’s experienced in a small way what they have gone through being incarcerated.”
In recent days, Huffman has been helping the group prepare for their upcoming gala, being held in downtown L.A. on Dec. 8. “Felicity has been helping the women pick out dresses for the gala this Sunday [and] she’ll be helping us set up the event,” says Burton.
What’s more, adds Burton, “She’s been cooking for the women, cleaning the homes, shopping and answering the phone. We love having her here.”
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In May, Huffman pleaded guilty to paying disgraced admissions consultant Rick Singer $15,000 to have a proctor change daughter Sophia’s SAT answers after she took the test. As part of her sentence, Huffman was ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and serve 250 hours of community service and a year of supervised release.
In addition to A New Way of Life, Huffman has been doing community service work at the Teen Project, a local rehab center for girls who have lived on the streets and who are trying to earn their GEDs. She and her daughter Georgia, 17, had been tutoring and volunteering at the center for almost two years before Huffman’s sentence.
While Burton is grateful for Huffman’s hands-on support, she is also eager to share A New Way of Life’s work with a broad audience. “I hope your readers will visit our site and support our work,” she says.
Raised in South L.A., Burton endured six prison terms before being steered by a friend to a substance abuse treatment center in Santa Monica, California. She had survived a childhood filled with abuse but spiraled into addiction after her five-year-old son was run over and killed.
In 1997, she began turning her life around and the next year, opened a three-bedroom safe home in the South LA neighborhood of Watts to help other women find their footing after being released from prison.
With A New Way of Life, Burton has been giving back ever since.
To learn more about A New Way of Life and Susan Burton’s amazing story, visit http://anewwayoflife.org. For information about the Dec. 8 Gala, visit https://secure.givelively.org/event/a-new-way-of-life-reentry-project/2019-gala.