Friends Helping Friends Helping Women
Everyone needs a friend. A friend is that trusted person who laughs, cries, celebrates and commiserates with you, and serves as that beautiful reminder that none of us are alone.
Friends make life more fun. If you are lucky enough to work with a friend, work becomes more fun too.
Kari Galloway, executive director of Friends of Guest House (FOGH), an Alexandria nonprofit that helps women returning from incarceration transition from prison to community life through offering life skills in a six-month, residential setting, knows the joy of working with a friend. She met Lynn Thomas, executive director of Community Lodgings, when Lynn was the director of service enriched housing for Christian Relief Services and Kari needed housing for her clients.
The professional transaction became a friendship, and their recurring lunches deepened their personal and professional ties. “I’ve always admired Lynn,” Kari said, referring to her values of family and service. “I just love her sense of humor, and she’s such a good person.”
Their friendship grew when Lynn became Community Lodgings’ executive director in 2013 and they realized that both nonprofits’ missions included helping women achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Both organizations served women who struggled with homelessness and a lack of affordable housing. Many of Kari’s clients faced the additional challenges of wanting to restart their lives in Alexandria, where they held steady if low-paying jobs and could continue receiving FOGH support. Returning home carried the risk of living in the same environment that led to their incarceration.
Community Lodgings’ transitional and affordable housing programs became Kari’s go-to service to help her clients in their next transitional step. Their collaboration has helped some of Kari’s toughest and most stubborn clients live independently, she said, thanks to the dedication of Charlyne Braxton, Community Lodgings’ transitional housing manager, and an ongoing spirit of teamwork.
One shining success story is that of Jenny McDaniel, a former FOGH client, who lived in Community Lodgings’ affordable apartments for several years. Today Jenny proudly owns a lovely home in Alexandria, works as a manager at Your Dogs’ Best Friends, and advocates for hiring ex-offenders.
“Any one person is worth all the resources we have,” Kari explained as her reason for working so closely with Community Lodgings and other nonprofits.
When organizations work together to help those most in need, she added, “There’s no end to what you can do.”