CLAREMORE, Oklahoma - Governor Kevin Stitt signed a pardon Thursday for a Claremore woman who got out of prison 17 years ago. She has since started her own business, helping other women who were incarcerated move forward with their lives.

About 200 people showed up to She Brews Coffee House including family, friends and dignitaries to celebrate the milestone with Rhonda Bear.

Bear shared with the crowd that 19 years ago this month she was lying in a brush pile, hiding from police.

"I cried out and I said, 'God, please give me courage to change my life. And that courage has been my drive. He heard my prayer that day,” Bear said.

As Stitt signed her pardon she was surrounded by people like Sara Hagan, who works at She Brews. The two met in prison.

"She's become like another mom to me. She's a very good woman,” Hagan said.

Bear’s family was also proudly by her side. Her daughter, Sara Williams, said forgiveness changed their family's future.

"In order to move on and healing in my mom's and I's relationship, I had to forgive the person who hurt me the most,” Williams said.

Bear told the crowd about saying goodbye to her children right before she went to prison and telling them she was sorry for the mom she had been.

"My little girl looked at me and she said, 'I can't even cry because I've cried so many times. Mom, please don't leave me. Mom I'd never knew if I'd see you again or if I'd see you alive,'" Rhonda said.

"She was about 8 years old. She stands with me today, one of my biggest fans, her and my son, my children. And I kept my word. I came back to get you. And I came back different."
 
With hundreds of Oklahoma prisoners just released this week, the room was energized by what Bear has made of her life after getting out of prison in 2002.
 

"Right now I'm telling you, there's more hope for people that are in prison than there ever has been in our history,” Stitt said.

Once the crowd clears and the excitement starts to settle, Bear has plans to celebrate in her own way.

"I will get together with all of my sisters and we'll probably just sit down and laugh and drink a really good cup of coffee,” Bear said.

Right now in Oklahoma, receiving a pardon does not mean your record is expunged. Bear said she plans to work with lawmakers to try to change that in the future.