Carver Rose Honoree
Reverend Dr. Michelle Anne Simmons: Founder, Why Not Prosper, Inc.
Select for Past Honorees 1986 - Present
Reverend Dr. Michelle Anne Simmons, a single mother of two children, has overcome many challenges throughout her life. It is through her faith in God that she has persevered and is able to share her story. She has received a number of awards for her leadership, advocacy, heroism, and humanitarianism that have afforded her opportunities to travel the world, sharing her experience and ministering to others.
Rev. Simmons currently holds a Doctor of Ministry and a master’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology as well as a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Chestnut Hill College. She is also a Certified Allied Addictions Practitioner and a Human Services Board-Certified Practitioner. Rev. Simmons is the Founder and Executive Director of Why Not Prosper, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping females in prison make a smooth transition back into society after their incarceration. She founded the group believing in the importance of giving women a hand up, not a handout.
Preserving women's rights did not spark Rev. Simmons' interest as a youth in Philadelphia, but her motivation to launch Why Not Prosper came from her own experience. After living through much adversity in her adolescent and early adult years, including abuse, legal problems, and substance use, she became incarcerated and later became inspired to turn her life around and to help others. Over time, she found hope through Christianity and attended self-help programs to overcome her addiction, achieving sobriety in 1999.
Rev. Simmons has dedicated numerous hours of volunteer service over the past 20 years to improve the quality of life for disenfranchised people through prison outreach, missionary work, and mentorship. Rev. Simmons has financed multiple trips around the world in order to provide goods and supplies such as eyeglasses, medication, food, clothing, and educational materials to people in Haiti, Gambia, Bermuda, Jamaica, Nova Scotia, and Santo Domingo.
In 2001, Rev. Simmons founded Why Not Prosper, Inc., a grassroots 501C3 organization located in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA. The organization’s mission is to help women in the prison system to discover their own strength and to empower them to become responsible, economically self-sufficient and contributing members of the community. Since that time, the organization has assisted hundreds of women make a smooth transition from prison to community. As a formerly incarcerated woman, she has a deep understanding of the needs of women in the prison system. Her organization now provides Pre-release Mentoring to incarcerated women at Muncy and Cambridge Springs Prisons.
In October 2014, Rev. Simmons helped form and implemented a pilot program – Breaking the Cycle – Re-Entry Program for Women Leaving Human Trafficking (BTC). It is a collaborative partnership with the Department of Corrections and the City of Philadelphia and utilizes the staff, residential facilities, and programs of Why Not Prosper.
Over the years Rev. Simmons has created and launched a number of other services through Why Not Prosper including a Teleservice Program in Montgomery County offering support services via phone or in person as needed. Other programs that support women include:
A Graphic Arts Program that is a one-year program designed to encourage graphic arts for a career, employment, or continuing education.
A Leadership/Advocacy program helps women recognize their leadership abilities and the value of collective action to create systemic changes.
A Domestic Violence Program in the Germantown community that provides educational workshops helping women to recognize risk factors that lead to violence against women and provides continued support when needed.
Women’s Advocacy Program implemented in January 2015, which is a one-year program that educates women on how to advocate workshops on the Adoption and Safe Families Act.
And finally Graduates of WNP co-founded SWAG [Sisters with a Goal]
Rev. Simmons has authored three books, Why Not Prosper? The Decision is Yours and Keep it Movin’ - both having to do with her background and experiences, and how to overcome adversities in life. Her third book- Why Not Prosper House: How I Started a Transitional Living Facility and How You Can Too! deals with how to start a transitional living facility and create a successful nonprofit organization. She founded the Inspire Magazine, which is a community connection and information resource about social and racial justice.
Remarkably, in 2015 Rev. Simmons received a full and unconditional pardon for her earlier conviction. Pardons reward people who have gone on to live honest and law-abiding lives after completing their criminal sentence. They are granted infrequently, and as a recipient, Rev. Simmons is in a very select group.
Rev. Simmons has been, and continues to be, a remarkable example for others to follow. Her can-do spirit and energy are electrifying, and she is not tired yet.
Why Not Prosper is a grassroots 501 C (3) organization founded by a formerly incarcerated woman for formerly incarcerated women. We are strong advocates for women and we are committed to providing programs and services that support women in their re-entry efforts from prison to community. We provide a continuum of programs that includes Pre-Release Mentoring to incarcerated women, residential services at Why Not Prosper House and community services at our Resource Center located in Philadelphia PA.
Additionally, we have specific programs that address the needs of women that include employment mentoring, graphic arts, leadership/advocacy and intimate partner violence workshops that are provided in the community and at Riverside Correctional Facility. In January 2015, we implemented the Women’s Advocacy Program that educates women as peer advocates.
Gernmantown Resource Center 717 E. Chelten Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144
Why Not Prosper House 5616 and 5624 Chew Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19138