In her upcoming Christmas movie, Full House alum Lori Loughlin plays a TV chef who gives up her culinary series to travel the world. While completing a last errand in Milwaukee before jetting off to Paris, she meets a community that teaches her the true meaning of the holiday season.

The working title of the TV film, Blessings of Christmas, seems entirely apt for Lori, who feels grateful to be given a second chance after spending two months in a federal prison in 2020 for trying to buy her daughters’ way into an elite college with fraudulent credentials. The actress, says a friend, has learned several valuable lessons from the ordeal and is determined to live her life differently.

Compelled by the court to do community service, Lori, 59, turned to Project Angel Food, an organization that helps feed needy people. In addition to boxing groceries, Lori has delivered meals on a weekly route to hungry people. “They have welcomed me with such open arms when I was feeling particularly down and broken,” she said of the charity. “It is a community; it is a family and all the people that work here are so wonderful.”

Meeting people in less fortunate circumstances has also been a wake-up call for the actress, who grew up on New York’s Long Island and began modeling at age 11. “Lori never understood how privilege worked. It was a major life lesson,” says a friend. “Today, she is more aware of her blessings and how others aren’t as financially fortunate. It sounds like such a cliché, but she walked through the fire and has come out a better person.”

Lori Loughlin wears black halter-neck gown with silver trim
John Salangsang/Shutterstock

Of course, Lori didn’t go through this experience alone. Her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 60, served five months in jail for his role in the college admissions scandal. Their daughters, Bella, 24, and Olivia Jade, 23, were never charged with a crime but faced an ugly backlash on social media and dropped out of college. “I feel like I have such a supportive family,” said Olivia. “We’ve all stayed really close through everything, so that’s all you can really ask for.”

Since their release from prison, Lori and Mossimo underwent couples counseling and have downsized to a smaller home in celebrity-friendly Hidden Hills, California, outside Los Angeles. “There were many ups and downs, but Lori and Mossimo are closer than ever,” says the friend of the spouses, who wed in 1997.

Getting the opportunity to return to acting, the work Lori loves, via Great American Family, a Tennessee-based Christian network, has been a dream come true. Blessings of Christmas is her third project for the network. “Lori’s grateful for the second chance,” says the friend. “Her whole family learned valuable lessons, and they’re all better off because of it.”