FreshBooks is all about helping the little guys. Usually that means helping people who are just starting out in business, but in one case we’re helping someone who is starting over in life.
26 years ago, Del Hendrixson made a mistake that cost her a year and changed her life forever. She made the mistake of helping people the wrong way. She forged documents to give illegal immigrants in the United States access to basic social services.
Before prison, Hendrixson was working as a graphic designer. She lost her career when she went to prison, and then she lost her way. “Prison is a very traumatic experience. You have no choice but to become a survivalist,” she says. “When you come back to society, you come back a Rambo. People who have never been through it don’t realize it, and so they don’t comprehend what they are messing with.”
After Hendrixson served her time, she faced the same fate as many other former convicts. She couldn’t find work. “I kept applying for jobs after I got out, but they asked me if I was incarcerated and I had to say yes,” she says. Finally, a sympathetic soul reached out to help – a moment that changed her life. “If I could design the logos and sell the jobs, he would teach me how to screen print,” she says. “He said he had done things in life he regretted so he promised to help me. I promised to give back to others if he helped me.”
She made good on that promise in a big way — with just $20 and her garage. In 1982, she founded Bajito Onda, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization to help former prisoners rebuild their lives and reconnect with society by teaching them creative professions like printing, design and publishing.
“Our reason for being is educational, cultural, empowerment and equality. It’s the reputation of Bajito Onda that represents the people who don’t have a face or voice in society,” Hendrixson says.
The difference she has made is astounding. Over 25 years, she has personally trained over 10,000 people in Dallas to be self-sufficient, contributing members of society. She has presented to the United Nations. She has grown her organization to include half a million of members from around the world, from the U.S. to El Salvador, and Honduras to Africa. She calls them her underground family.
The charitable organization is now well-known for its extensive collection of prisoner art, made by members of the Bajito Onda family. Hendrixson started collecting after she was tapped to organize art shows where prisoners didn’t get a penny in return. She decided it would be better to have the means to give back to the artists. So, she started the Bajito Onda Prison and Street Art Gallery and collected everything from wood and leather works, to airbrushed bandanas (panos), to paintings.
“I hated to sell the originals because once the original was gone we couldn’t do anything else with it. I started scanning their art and printing it on t-shirts in my shop,” she explains. And of course, because it represented Bajito Onda, “when they got out of prison, I helped them get a job as artists or to become their own printers.”
This month, Bajito Onda launched a clothing line featuring authentic Hispanic prisoner art. Proceeds will directly support the organization’s charitable works. Hendrixson hopes the collection will inspire other prisoners to join the Bajito Onda family.
Bajito Onda uses FreshBooks to manage invoicing for shipments.
“A few years ago, I was going crazy trying to figure out a way to invoice people. We were still doing it the old fashioned way: with paper. A lot of things happen when you’re sitting alone in the warehouse at night. I wondered if there was some sort of ‘online invoicing’ tool, so I searched for it. And boom! There it was,” Hendrixson says.
“My clients accepted it. It wasn’t handwritten. It looked professional. Trackable. Downloadable. Really efficient. I contacted FreshBooks and they agreed to donate the service to our foundation.”
We’re happy to help out such an inspiring organization! Congratulations on the new online clothing store!