2019 marks Friends of Guest House’s 45th Anniversary–45 years of helping thousands of women successfully reenter the community from incarceration. Inspired by Humans of New York, and in honor of our 45th Anniversary, we will share 45 stories about Friends of Guest House. This past month we interviewed some incredible and inspiring people. In case you missed it, here are some of the highlights:.
The Guest House– Since its founding in 1974, Friends of Guest House has been a place of safety and security to more than 4,000 women reentering the community. Every woman has her own unique story which means each woman’s journey to success looks different. We are humbled to be a stop on each “guest’s” journey to become who she wants to be. Our hope is that every woman we have the privilege of serving accomplishes her goals and remembers that her past does not define her future.
Kari Galloway– “Some of the stories have been just so hard to hear of the trauma and abuse and neglect and the terrible things people have been through, but it makes you love them all the more. People who can survive that and maybe they have some maladaptive coping mechanisms, but that’s really not so surprising. I tell them all the time, that’s what’s kept you alive — now we just have to readapt those things to being the way you need to be in order to get along in the community, which is really just a few clicks off from where you are. It’s hard to change patterns – your behaviors get kind of set and that’s an easy thing to revert back to…You can come here. You’re not going to sit here and not do anything – we have an expectation that you will rise. You’re going to become the woman you’re capable of being and we want to help you do that, we want to support you in that, but you have to meet us somewhere halfway.”
Kari Galloway has led Friends of Guest House as Executive Director for nearly 14 years. Her ability to deeply connect with each and every woman who passes through Guest House is a driving force behind why the program is so successful. Kari is constantly impressed by the resilience of residents in the program, describing them as some of the smartest people she’s ever met.
Pastor Jen– For Jeanette Leisk (“Pastor Jen”), Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church-Alexandria, VA, a partnership with Friends of Guest House represents the practical living out of faith. “Our understanding of being Christians is to follow the way of Jesus, and what Jesus said is to reach out into the community, especially to people who are vulnerable – who are shunned or treated poorly. Faith doesn’t just take place on Sunday mornings during a worship service, but it is primarily out in the world in which we live…” For more than five years, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church has opened their doors to the women of Guest House. Under the leadership of Pastor Jen, who also serves as a Guest House mentor, and with the blessing of the congregation, Good Shepherd has expanded the in-kind provision of their space significantly – from initially hosting women-only AA/NA meetings and Guest House administrative gatherings to now providing space for Guest House’s daily Workforce and Life Development Program, fall graduation ceremony, holiday parties, memorial services, and more.
Ms. Mary- I was a probation officer for 25 years. I think I was attracted to Guest House because working as a probation officer you don’t really get to know the people. You’re following the judge’s orders and you never really got to know them…I’m a survivor of domestic violence. That’s why I understand a lot of what these women go through. I can identify with a lot of their trauma that’s gone on. I stayed in that marriage for 20 years and it was very abusive, mentally and physically. But sometimes you gotta pull yourself up, ain’t nobody going to pull you up. You have to pull yourself up. Anything you set your mind to that you really want to do, you can do it. Guest House is a very good program. The people here are trying to help these ladies recapture their lives. We somehow motivate them to want more and to want to do more. I always see hope in them. Even in the hopelessness of some of them, I see hope.
Ms. Mary has been involved with Guest House since the mid-70’s but has been working as a Resident Services Specialist since 2012. She says she’s constantly motivated by the women who are really trying to change their lives. When asked by her friends, ‘why are you still working at 75?’ she says, ‘well, I don’t see it as work. It’s a passion for me and I’m on a mission.’
Missed out on some of these stories? You can read the full posts about Guest House, Kari, Pastor Jen, and Ms. Mary on social media! Be sure to follow us to keep up with the incredible stories we get to highlight in 2019!