COLLEYVILLE -- Lynn Kiselstein seemingly had it all -- a big house, slick car, expensive clothes and a country club membership.
A stripper at clubs in Fort Worth and Dallas, she was rolling in cash.
"At first it was fun," she said. "I was making money hand over fist, bought a Corvette, built a house and had the wedding of my dreams."
But the job that afforded her luxuries also led her down a path of self-destruction, causing her to lose her home, marriage, possessions and self-worth.
Now 42, Kiselstein is working in a resale store in Irving and studying for her GED certificate thanks to help from We Are Cherished, a nonprofit that helps women get out of the sex industry by providing encouragement and resources.
Kiselstein said she decided to give up her exotic lifestyle while in the Tarrant County Jail for possession of methamphetamine.
"I had just decided enough was enough," she said. "No more dancing, no more drugs. No more abuse and wear and tear on my body. I was tired. ... I danced for 17 years."
She was released from jail in February and through a friend was led to the faith-based organization that is headquartered in the Cherished House in Colleyville. The house was donated by First Baptist Church Colleyville, which also provides financial support to the organization.
"We had dinner; they greeted us with gift bags. It was amazing," said Kiselstein, who plans to eventually attend culinary school. "From the moment I walked in, it literally felt like arms were around me, but no one was standing next to me."
The ministry is the brainchild of Polly Wright, 38, who is a member of the church.
Under the direction of Wright and Trudi Gummelt -- both former strippers -- We Are Cherished has about 100 volunteers and has provided support to about 15 strippers since starting in November.
Once a month, Wright, Gummelt and other volunteers load up two vans with 250 gift bags each and head to strip clubs in Arlington, Fort Worth and Dallas to "plant seeds of hope."
If allowed inside a club, the women leave behind the bags, containing colorfully wrapped items such as lip gloss, lotion and earrings. Also in each bag is a card with a handwritten note of encouragement and information about how to seek help.
Gummelt, 45, said getting help is a huge step for those in the industry.
"By the time they do, they've probably been thinking about seeking help for months," she said.
Some will seek another avenue of income, but it takes time to learn life skills and money management, Gummelt said.
"It's discouraging if you don't have someone to encourage you," she said.
Wright began dancing when she was 18 and a student at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches.
"I had money, and school was paid for," Wright said. "I just wanted extra party money, plus it was a risque thing to do."
Wright said her sexual views were formed at age 7 after she was sexually abused.
She declined to identify her abuser, whom she said she has forgiven.
"At that point my whole outlook changed," she said. "My view of what love was became twisted."
Wright said she grew up in an unstable home. Her father drank and used drugs, and he and her mother were divorced when she was 8.
Her mother remarried when Wright was 11, when she began drinking and using drugs.
At 14, Wright said she was raped by someone after smoking pot with him.
"I was basically payment for drugs," she said. "I got pregnant from that rape and had an abortion."
Wright said she became depressed and struggled as a student at Lake Highlands High School in Dallas. After graduating, she thought she could start anew at Stephen F. Austin.
"I started out with incredible potential," she said. "I did really well at first."
She began stripping after a friend who worked as a disc jockey at a strip club approached her about a job, promising fun times and easy money.
"I danced for two years," she said. "I was never sober and made a ton of money."
The work was degrading, she said, and she often ended up having sex with her "clients" outside the club to encourage big tips.
"The glamour? It's all lies," she said. "Because you sell your soul to do it."
She eventually began seeing a counselor but couldn't shake the dark shadows that had crept back into her life.
"I finally couldn't take it anymore and tried to kill myself," she said.
She ended up in a hospital and gave up stripping after being released.
Still, there was emptiness in her life.
That changed when she met her husband in September 1995.
"He was a Christian," she said. "Born and raised Southern Baptist."
She said they fell head over heels in love and were engaged one month later.
"I found out I was pregnant on Thanksgiving eve," she said. "We got married in January."
In 1999 she became a Christian.
'A God thing'
Wright, her husband and their twin daughters eventually moved to Northeast Tarrant County, and in 2008, she said God called her to begin the ministry.
She began doing research and over time found TreasuresLA, a Los Angeles faith-based outreach and support group for women in the sex industry.
In October 2010, she contacted TreasuresLA and made plans to be trained there, but just four days before she was to leave, she met Gummelt at an after-church lunch.
Wright shared her story with Gummelt, only to learn that she, too, had once been a stripper. She was also sexually abused as a child and started doing drugs and having sex at a very early age.
"That was a God thing," Wright said, referring to their meeting.
Gummelt said the ministry was a perfect match for her, and she went with Wright to Los Angeles. Upon returning they started working immediately.
"We ended up going to seven clubs our first time in November," Wright said. "Our first text came two days later."
Wright saved the message, which read: "I'm one of the girls you gave a bag to, thank you ladies. You really encouraged me. I've been trying to get out of the industry for a while now."
"Since then, the ministry has literally exploded," Wright said.
Every Wednesday night, a meal is served at the Cherished House for women who desire help and support.
It provides a relaxing atmosphere and a little more privacy than meeting at a church, Wright said.
Volunteers also gather at the house to help stuff gift bags to take to the clubs, and the house has a boutique full of clothing for women in need.
Wright said the overall goal is to show the women they are loved by God and should not have a life full of shame, guilt and pain.
"It's got to be their choice; we can't drag them out," she said.
"We just love them to freedom."
Susan McFarland, 817-431-2231