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From victim to victory: Charles set to perform

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Sheila Raye Charles is bringing her message of hope and renewal to New Richmond.

The daughter of the late legendary performer Ray Charles, Sheila Raye Charles has quite a story to tell. And she weaves a fair amount of music into her presentation as well.

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Charles, 47, who has been a Twin Cities resident for 21 years, didn't live a charmed life as a child, even though she had a famous father.

She suffered through sexual abuse, mental abuse and more in her early years. She learned early on to hide her pain and not deal with the issues in her life.

"My mother was very old fashioned, so we didn't talk about those things," she said.

Eventually, Charles began experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. After having her second child, Charles suffered post-partum depression and got heavily involved in drugs.

"I just snapped," she recalled.

During that time, she moved to the Twin Cities to be part of the exploding music scene. She recorded music at Paisley Park and hung out with musicians who were part of the Minneapolis sound.

"But I was going to the pit of hell in the midst of it," she said.

Charles said she would leave her home, and her children, for months at a time and not let anyone know where she was. She was addicted to cocaine and her life was spiraling out of control.

She was sentenced to prison and spent more than four years behind bars. It was at that point that she wanted to give up.

"I really didn't want to live anymore," she said.

Lying on the concrete floor of her cell, Charles said she cried out to God to take her life. Instead, God spoke to her and told her that He was going to use her past pain to help others.

"First of all, I thought I was going crazy," she admitted. "I stayed up all night pouring my heart out to God. The next morning, the weight of the world was taken off my shoulders."

After being released from prison in 2003, Charles tended to her aging father and began organizing a Christian ministry to speak in prisons, schools and other venues.

The story resonates with people who have made bad choices in life, Charles said. Her hope is that others are inspired to change their lives and seek God.

When she tells her story, Charles said she doesn't leave out any of the details, even though it's difficult for her to recount some of her past painful experiences.

"People want to hear that God is able to do supernatural things," she said. "I'm very excited about my life now. I have gone from victim to victory, and it's all because of the power of God."

Charles will be the guest speaker and vocalist at a fundraiser dinner for "Free" Inside/Out Ministries Inc. of New Richmond on Friday, Oct. 21, at Ready Randy's Banquet Facility. The ministry brings worship teams into the Stanley and Jackson correctional facilities in Wisconsin.

The event will also benefit the work of Chaplain Jeannine Limbeck, who along with a group of dedicated volunteers works with inmates at the St. Croix County Jail.

"We've seen many changed lives through the ministries," Limbeck reported. "We help people find purpose and give them hope in their lives."

Charles will be sharing her testimony, as well as singing some of her father's hits and songs she has written for her CD "Behind the Shades." Her CD and auto-biography will be available for purchase.

A silent auction runs from 5 to 6 p.m. Dinner is served at 6:15 p.m., with the performance to follow at 7 p.m.

For information or tickets, call 715-246-7976 or 715-977-0123.

Charles will also be meeting with inmates at the St. Croix County Jail on Sunday, Oct. 23, during her visit to the area.

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