Charity Lee is the Founder and Executive Director of The ELLA Foundation™, a 501(c)3 based in San Antonio, TX, whose mission is to prevent violence and to advocate for human rights through education, criminal justice reform, and victim advocacy.
On March 11, 1980, while Charity was at school, her father, James Robert Bennett Jr., was murdered in the family home. Her mother, Kyla Bennett, was arrested, charged, tried, and eventually found not guilty of Murder, in spite of evidence of her guilt. Had she been found guilty, she would have faced life in prison without parole, leaving Charity, for all practical purposes, an orphan at the age of 6. Instead, she was raised by the woman very likely responsible for the murder of her father.
On February 4, 2007, while Charity was at work, her thirteen-year-old son Paris convinced the babysitter to go home early, telling her he would take care of his 4-year old sister Ella. After she left, he sexually assaulted then beat, choked, and stabbed Ella 17 times, ultimately causing her death.
One month after Ella’s murder, the Texas Youth Commission, the juvenile agency that would soon have permanent custody and care of her son, was put under Federal Indictment for the physical and sexual abuse of the children in their care; children they are mandated by law and ethics to attempt to rehabilitate, not harm by further traumatization and victimization.
Convinced her son was ill and needed treatment, and believing he deserved to be treated with unconditional love and forgiveness, rather than raped and beaten at the hands of the Texas authorities, Charity began to work tirelessly as an advocate, first on issues related to juvenile justice reform, then over time expanded her work to include advocating on behalf of adults in prison, those on death rows across America, murder victim family members, and victims of family violence.
While to many these populations may appear to have conflicting needs, Charity has learned from her years as the daughter of a murdered father, daughter of alleged murderess, mother of a murderer, and mother of a murder victim, that once violence has occurred, there are truly no longer “sides”. There are just those who suffer because violence has found a way into their lives.
In spite of living in a world turned inside out and upside down by the loss of both her children, Charity found her calling, and that calling led to the creation of The ELLA Foundation™. ELLA™ is grounded in the belief that those who create violence, and those who suffer violence, need four things to overcome the trauma of their tragedy to be able to create meaning from tragedy and become healthy, balanced, and creative, rather than destructive, forces in their world again: Empathy, Love, Lessons, and Action™.
Charity has travelled the US, Canada, and Africa to share her story and example of unconditional love for all, no matter what they’ve done or had done to them, with as many people as possible. She speaks in prisons, makes regular visits to Texas’ Death Row, has been arrested on the steps of the Supreme Court of the U.S. protesting the death penalty, counsels and supports families of murder victims and families of those who have committed murder, and volunteered hundreds of hours as a certified crisis interventionist with the San Antonio Police Department.
Charity is now in the process of creating The ELLA Foundation™’s therapeutic creative writing workshop for children who have a parent/loved one in prison in addition to preparing her memoir on the loss of her children for publication and setting the groundwork for ELLA™’s ultimate goal: the creation of ELLA’s Place™, a community violence prevention and healing center which will offer support and education to those affected by violence and the criminal justice system, no matter which side of the crime scene tape clients must cross to begin to heal.
ELLA’s Place™ will be staffed by paid and volunteer social workers, lawyers, psychologists, and advocates who understand, and can deliver, the four things everyone affected by violence needs to stop, cope with, overcome, and transform the violence tearing apart their life: Empathy. Love. Lessons. Action™.
For more information on The ELLA Foundation™ and Charity Lee, please visit ELLA™’s website at www.theellafoundation.com. Ms. Lee is available for public speaking, interviews, and prison outreach and can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 210-601-9551.