Why I Started FRUIT. Magazine, A Letter From Tera Swigart
I just wanted to take a minute to tell you why I started FRUIT. magazine. As a teenager, I witnessed many of my friends struggle with depression, loneliness, and anger. Many of them had serious issues at home with absent, abusive, or drug/alcohol addicted parents. I saw them (and sometimes myself) turn to drugs, gangs, sex, running away from home, cutting, etc. to deal with these feelings and problems. I still have countless letters from friends who grew up in juvenile facilities and group homes - missing dances, friendships, family, and freedom. I witnessed broken-hearted family and friends at way too many funerals for people who died way too young due to drug overdoses, drunk driving, gang violence, and suicides. It was surreal. In the midst of all this turmoil, I was lucky to have two amazing parents who prayed for me and my friends, welcomed them into our home, and taught me to seek God during those times. I still made lots of mistakes, but I had a solid foundation to go back to.
When I was 19 years old, I lost one of my best friends. We had been close since we were six years old, playing together at school and home. We grew up together. He spent a lot of time “locked up” and was finally out and I thought the worst was over, but then he died of a drug overdose. I was devastated. I was done. One day, while I was walking and praying, I told God that I just wanted to be free from the hurt. I told Him I was tired of being angry at Him and that I wanted Him to clean me from all those ugly feelings. At that very moment it started raining! It was overcast and you may call it coincidence but in my heart, I knew it was an answer to prayer. He was listening. I walked home like a kid, splashing in puddles and enjoying the rain rather than hiding from it. My dad came out and joined me. Anyway, that day I realized that I could become bitter and cynical about all I had seen or I could do something to try to prevent other people from having to go through it.
I began mentoring and teaching art at the Fort Bend County Detention Center at 19 years old and later worked for them planning enrichment activities and teaching life skills. Then I went to school and became a Chemical Dependency Counselor and worked as a counselor at three different Harris County juvenile facilities. It was there that God gave me the dream for FRUIT. magazine - to reach as many of these young men and women as I could and share with them hope, encouragement, resources, and gang and drug education in a way that they would hopefully receive and consider it. On top of that, God gave me the vision of publishing their art and writing so they could feel proud of themselves for doing something positive and so that they could use their mistakes to help their peers.
I have now been working with youth in the juvenile justice system for 19 years. I love these kids. You wouldn’t believe some of their stories - makes my past look like a fairy tale. So, I appreciate every encouragement and every cent that you give to allow me to continue working with them. This magazine is my heart and my passion. All the glory goes to God; He has surprised me every step of the way!