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Making Positive Life Changes at Friends of Guest House

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Friends of Guest House is a safe place in Northern Virginia for women to successfully re-enter the community after incarceration. While residing at Friends of Guest House the women have the opportunity to secure employment, obtain mental health and medical services, build community connections, and attain stable housing.

Each day we strive to challenge our clients to make positive life changes while also challenging the local community to disregard the stigma of ex-offenders. One of our former residents expressed her goals and the challenges of the preconceived opinion society has of her through a poem:

What do you see when you look at me?
Do you see a project to help you learn something?
or at first do you see a person going through things?
Do you imagine yourself to be better than me?

Oh enlighten me on what you see.
Do you see all the potential that I am trying to unleash?
Or maybe you just see the number that was given to me.

Oh ma’am, oh sir, tell me that you see a better life for me.

Well let me discuss what I see.
I see getting it by any and all means,
a growth that the eye cannot see.
Look into the future and that?s all I need
and maybe then you will be asking me
What do you see?

Our program has demonstrated that re-entry support is essential to breaking the cycle of crime and repeated incarceration. Without support, when returning to the community 70% of ex-offenders re-offend within two years. These numbers change drastically for Friends of Guest House graduates: fewer than 10% re-offend. With this in mind, our program offers three levels of support: Residential, Aftercare, and Outreach.

IMG_0218Our Executive Director, Kari Galloway, works tirelessly to ensure that the organization offers full support to the women we serve. She recently reached her 12-year anniversary with Friends of Guest House. Without her, the program would not be as strong and successful as it currently is. She inspires the staff to work hard and, more importantly, she inspires the women to succeed. Not only does she provide the encouragement and support to each client but she holds them accountable for their actions and offers the constructive criticism they need.

One of the biggest challenges for our clients is securing safe and affordable housing in the DMV. In order to afford the housing opportunities in the local area, our clients need to be able to find job opportunities that offer advancement and growth. Currently clients typically secure minimum wage positions and struggle to afford the local cost of living. Unfortunately, these women will typically decide to return home to unhealthy environments that challenge their sobriety and success.

We hope to address both the need for affordable housing and career oriented jobs through our most recent initiatives. The Workforce Development Program is a six-week program that allows clients to develop their resume, learn interviewing techniques, and obtain an internship and eventually a career. We are also piloting a subsidized transitional house for Aftercare and Outreach clients scheduled to open later this month.

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Come see our beautiful clients in action on April 4th at Sara Campbell’s Boutique 320 Prince Street – in Old Town, Alexandria from 6-8pm for a Friends of Guest House fashion show featuring current clients! It’ll be a fun evening to learn more about partnering with our organization while pampering our clients and giving them some time in the spotlight!

Friends of Guest House always welcomes volunteers, donations, and questions. Please visit us at www.friendsofguesthouse.org for contact information!

7 Questions – Buzz Mauro & Deb Gottesman (Theatre Lab)

Today, we are welcoming not one … but two non-profit leaders to “7 Questions.” Buzz Mauro and Deb Gottesman are co-directors of The Theatre Lab School of the Dramatic Arts, which serves hundreds of youth and adults through its Life Stories program, and hundreds more through classes and summer camps in acting, directing, playwriting, and musical theatre .

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

We are about to embark on a project that is one of our “big dreams:” a theatre and documentary film project by and about the participants in our Life Stories program for homeless women residing in N Street Village’s Recovery Housing Unit. Life Stories is our signature outreach program which trains people from typically marginalized populations to create original dramatic works based on their real-life experiences. We work with incarcerated and severely at-risk youth, seniors, critically ill children and their families, as well as with formerly homeless women. And we now feel that it’s time to share the work of the women from N Street on a larger stage. The monologues, scenes, poetry, and more that these women have created are so powerful and so well-acted that we want to make sure their voices are heard — not only by social justice activists, but also by people who love great theatre.

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7 Questions – Kristine Thompson (Calvary Women's Services)

Welcome to GoodWorks, Kris Thompson! Kris is the Executive Director of Calvary Women’s Services, which provides homeless women with both temporary housing and the resources and support to live independently in the future. Read on to learn more about Calvary, Kris, and her heroes:

1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?

With more women in need of housing, employment and support services, I’ve been working on expanding Calvary Women’s Services’ programs and housing capacity. It’s been great fun talking with long-time supporters about this project and having them respond positively to this opportunity to make further positive change in our community. I really can’t wait to see more women coming in our doors and having the resources to turn their lives around.

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