Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Residents Week - Day 3

CLICK HERE to watch the testimonial of Michelle, a former Guest House resident. The video is relatively short, but very impactful. Michelle helps to give a glimpse into the mindset of addicts going in and exiting incarceration.
Michelle spent years actively addicted to alcohol. Her addiction led her down many turbulent paths, and eventually she ended up in jail. She credits her arrest and subsequent incarceration as potentially saving her life.

Residents Week - Day 2

"It gets easier, this life of recovery. Not saying that you will not run into holes and brick walls, but if you can, just remember your reasons for change and live for yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!

I’m a resident at Guest House. Have been since April 27, 2011. I came to Guest House because I needed to transform. I needed positive role models. I need support. I know today I can’t walk this walk alone. Even being in a safety zone, when I walk out of the doors of Guest House temptation will always be there.

I had a test of temptation put forth towards me. I had just been at the Guest House for 2 weeks. After doing time in prison for 3 years and 10 months, I got to go out on my own. I went to Social Services to apply for food stamps, which was one of the things on my daily “to do” list. Just so happens there was no other resident of Guest House who could escort me that day. I went alone. Everything was fine, until on my way back when I was trying to catch the bus. I had just sat down at the bus stop and cracked open my soda can, when the nicest car I have ever seen drove by. The rims shining and the car was spotless. Not only was the car fine, but the fellow that was pushing them wheels was fine as well! He looked like money. He circled around and drove right up to me. This was truly a setup for a woman of my type! He pulled up to the bus stop and I started to smile. Boy was this the dream of any woman who just got out of prison! He rolled the window down and coolly said to me “You are fine!” and I couldn’t help but blush. He went on, “I circled the block about 3 times trying to find a way to introduce myself to you.” I was incredibly flattered and almost didn’t know what to say. Then, he asked the question that I have been running from, “Do you smoke?” My attitude instantly changed. “Smoke what?” I replied. “Crack” he responded, just as cool as before. “No, no I don’t. I’m in recovery and I’m a resident of the Guest House. I’m trying to live a clean and sober lifestyle!” I stood up, rolled my eyes, and began to walk off. He watched me walk all the way down the street, not moving his can an inch. When I got around the corner, I started to pray. Wanting to cry because I am a woman who has been an addict for 14 years – someone who had no desire to stand up for themselves and say no to drugs… alcohol… the whole lifestyle. That has been my LIFE. If there were no drugs then there was no me. Not today. Today I have a desire to say no, and mean it. I won’t stick around to be asked why or to try to be pressured, my life is too valuable to waste the time.

When you get tired of the lifestyle, the loss, the hurt, the consequences, and the lock-ups, your “no” will not even be a thought. It will flow. It may be scary because its new, but it gets easier. Practice. You are worth it. I’m not trying to say that any single instance will stop the temptation. But once you start saying “no,” it gets easier each time. You will feel in control of self. I did. I’m free. I’m clean and sober. I’m happy.

So stand up for yourself. Say no. And remember why you can do this. I know how it is. I did it. Enough is enough."

- - L.C. Resident of Guest House

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Residents Week - Day 1

Hello Again!
I wanted to thank all the people who responded to my previous blog entry. Today, I wanted to tell a little story about myself and how I see my life differently today.

Most of my life has been lived on a fast train to never ending pain, sorrow, and destruction. I never knew how to get off that train because I felt comfortable on that familiar seat I called life. Until one day that train came to a dead stop, and my everyday ride had come to an end. That is when I finally learned how to live. While I was locked up I learned that I wasn’t put on this earth to ride this misery train, I realized I deserve better.

My destructive lifestyle not only hurt me, but impacted the lives of my family – especially my children. My daughter was given up to my in-laws because I was too selfish to give up my seat on the fast train. My son, who I raised part-time, was robbed of a Mother. His Father was fully engulfed in a lifestyle that had no room for a child. This resulted in my son having to spend most of his life with his Granny. My parents loved and prayed for me so much and always believed that I would get it together soon. My Father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and was put in a home for the elderly. He spent over two years there before he passed away. After he dedicated his life to spending his time and energy on me, I was too busy on my train ride to come spend time with him. My Mother passed away about 10 years after my Father, and I didn't even attended her funeral.

You may be wondering why I wanted to tell you all this. It’s because I want you to understand that each day I have to face the repercussions of my actions and behaviors. It is hard to learn how to accept the things I can’t change, but it does give me the strength to know I never want to get back on that fast train ride again. I will never jeopardize another moment of my life and risk missing all the things that are important. I would give my life to be able to go back in time and tell my parents I’m sorry and love them, to be there for my children and not have missed such important milestones in their lives.

Friends of Guest House has reinforced the tools I need to live a normal, sober life. Guest House gave me the courage to face and overcome the daily pains and regrets of my past behavior. It is comforting to see that there are people who really want to see you be what God put you on this earth to be – an honest, loving person who takes the good with the bad. The staff and volunteers in this program believe in you and the person you are becoming. I have the strength now to be myself and I don’t feel like I have to put on a mask to live my life.

I want the readers of this blog to know that today I have learned how to ride the bus! It’s slow and makes a lot of stops, but I don’t have to get off if it’s now where I want to be. I can enjoy all the people, trees, flowers, beautiful babies, and even just a nice smile from the bus driver. I have come a long way from the fast train. God and the Guest House are my support. Both really care and want to see me succeed, rather than help me fall. I am thankful today for all I have endured throughout my life because it brought me to this place. I am now able to help others who are fighting to get off that fast train and just don’t know how. I never expected to take that ride for 30 years, but I unfortunately did. It hurts every day I wake up, but through the Guest House program, I can smile and be thankful to be alive in such a beautiful world."

- D.H., Resident at Guest House

Friday, June 3, 2011

Volunteer Orientation

On June 8th there will be an orientation/training for individuals who want to volunteer at Friends of Guest House. Anyone who is interested in attending this orientation, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Audrey Stahl, to set up an interview before June 8th. Her email address is: aleestahl@mac.com. The orientation on the 8th can only accommodate individuals who have met with Ms. Stahl and filled out a volunteer application. Those of you who want to volunteer, but either can't be interviewed before the 8th or can not make the orientation on the 8th be sure to still contact Ms. Stahl. We are always in the market for more dedicated volunteers!
Volunteers at Friends of Guest House work with residents on a wide variety of areas, including: GED tutoring, yard work, computer skills, living healthy (exercise, proper diet, etc.), and legal aid. We like to assess where an individual would fit best by learning of interests and specialties. For example, we have a volunteer who is a high school math teacher so he works with our clients on GED preparation. We are always open to new ideas for how volunteers could contribute to Guest House, so feel free to bring your ideas to the table for discussion!
Thank you!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Join Us at a Fun Dog Wash Tomorrow!

On Thursday, June 2nd, some of the staff and residents of Friends of Guest House will be helping out at a local dog wash, hosted by Your Dogs Best Friend. Join us from 5pm-9pm and have fun while your pup gets a bath! All donations and contributions go to Friends of Guest House.

Your Dogs Best Friend is a really great business that employees many of our clients. They are an award winning doggie daycare located at 2000 Jefferson Davis Hwy in Alexandria.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Announcing: Online Residents Week! June 6-12

Starting next Monday (June 6th) Guest House is going to do something a little different on the blog. We want to celebrate our clients, the women of Guest House, so we are having an online “Residents Week.” Each day during the week of June 6-12, we are going to post a story written by one of our clients and urge you to respond with some positive feedback.

When trying to transition and make positive changes in your life, even the simplest complement can brighten someone’s day. We are urging our clients to share their stories in a way that is comfortable and safe. We hope that you could help support them during this exciting and stressful period in their lives by posting comments of encouragement. Thank you in advance for your participation!

PLTI Jazz Concert

On Thursday, May 19, 2011, four Guest House residents and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the Parent Leadership Training Institutes (PLTI) benefit dinner and jazz concert!!

The event was to celebrate the fifth anniversary of PLTI Alexandria. PLTI offers free educational services to help parents learn how to navigate the system and advocate for their children, as well as their community. They believe that “democracy includes everyone” and individuals should be informed and active in their decision making.

The event was held at Convergence, a beautiful church off N. Quaker Lane in Alexandria. When we walked in Convergence, we were all blown away by the chic layout of a room, aptly called “The Sanctuary.” The “walls” of the room were almost entirely windows that looked out over the small green field outside. The Sanctuary was already filled with people socializing and eating together when we arrived, but it easy to find a place to sit and even easier to meet and mingle with a wide variety of people.

After about an hour of eating delicious finger-food and socializing, it was time to make our way into the adjacent room, the nave, where we would be treated to a performance by The W.E.S. Group. The W.E.S. Group is an awesome three man jazz band out of South Carolina. The nave, or as they called it “The Lab,” was almost entirely stained glass and when we entered the sun was setting, coloring the entire room.

As the band came on stage, we were all really anxious to hear some relaxing jazz. The saxophonist in the band, Will Smith, PhD, took the time to explained important concepts and techniques of jazz, helping the audience to feel involved in the music. Each song they performed was better than the last!

When the band was done and it was time to leave, the ladies and I were all smiles. We spent the rest of the evening talking about how much we truly enjoyed the entire experience. Just being able to sit with good company and listen to great music helped to relieve the daily stress of life and work.

We want to thank PLTI, namely Fay Slotnick, for inviting us and putting on such a fabulous event. It was really a perfect evening! THANK YOU!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Yesterday two Guest House residents, a member of our aftercare program, Kari (Executive Director), and myself went to speak with a group of middle school aged girls as part of the Guest House Speakers Bureau program. These girls were all participants in the SOHO (Space Of Her Own) program and are considered “at-risk youth.”
I was immediately amazed by the intelligence and energy these girls brought to the discussion! Before we arrived, the two Guest House residents that came were incredibly nervous to speak to a group about their experiences. They didn't know how they would be received and didn't know if the girls would be interested in what they had to say. Their fears were quelled about a minute after we walked in the building. All the girls were anticipating our arrival, and when we walked in they ran over to greet us.
The SOHO girls has so many questions and listened carefully to every response. After one speaker finished, at least 5 little hands shot up! It only took a couple of minutes for all of our speakers to loosen up and feel really comfortable in the space. After we finished speaking, the SOHO girls invited us to stay for a light dinner – which we were happy to agree to!
We went across the street to a park and enjoyed our meal by the water. The girls talked about what they wanted to be when they were older; one wanted to be a lawyer, another a police officer, and another wanted to be a model. We really encouraged them to always keep dreaming and to remember that education is the way to a successful life.
When it was time for us to leave, every single girl hugged and thanked us for coming to talk with them, They even invited us to their graduation on June 2nd! Which we plan on attending!
When we left, both of our residents (the ones who were terrified about speaking to a group mere hours before) asked when the next speakers engagement was – because they were going! Those girls at SOHO managed to eliminate fear and uncertainty with their beautiful smiles and heartwarming laughter. Truly amazing!
Thank you to everyone in the SOHO program for having us come in! We really enjoyed every moment of it.

If you want to volunteer and be a mentor for a girl in the SOHO program, check out their website

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Issues that are Important to a Guest House Resident..

"My most important issue now is family. Through my addiction I was never there to support my children. I missed out on going to basketball games, family outings, and my daughter doesn't even know who I am. My life is changed now. I want to be successful. I WILL be successful. I want to be respected, to be honest, and true to the people I love. My long term goal is to have a home and rebuild my relationship with my family. I want to have a traditional Christmas, something I've never been able to have. I want to grow spiritually - I trust in God and he will help me go in the right direction."
- D.H. (Resident at Guest House)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Be an Action "She-ro"

Today is the LAST day of the Spring2ACTion fundraising event. Guest House needs your donations to help us meet our goal of raising $2,000. If we are able to reach our goal, we have a matching grant to DOUBLE our earnings! That means Guest House would receive $4,000! Image all of the wonderful services we would be able to provide for our residents!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring2ACTion Fundraising Event May 5, 6, and 7

Exciting news! Friends of Guest House has received TWO $1,000 matching grants for the Spring2ACTion fundraising event on May 5, 6, and 7. What does it mean to have TWO matching $1,000 grants? It means if we raise $2,000 in donations during those three days, we will receive $2,000 EXTRA – totaling $4,000 in donations to Guest House!!

We need your help to reach the $2,000 goal! Please visit http://www.razoo.com/story/Friends-Of-Guest-House and make a donation on May 5-7. The more money we raise, the more likely we are to win additional prizes and grants!

When you donate to Friends of Guest House your donation goes to women who are sincere in their recovery and dedicated to living a positive life. Make a lasting impact and donate!

Your donations are incredibly important! Here is a break down of how your contributions are used to help our clients:

$25 – Can pay for one month of public transportation for one resident

$50 – Can pay for one resident to get the tools she needs to attain her GED (GED practice book, calculator, pencils/pens, etc)

$75 – Can pay for one month of hygiene products for 10residents(paper towels, toilet paper, feminine products, etc.)

$100 – Can pay for one resident to go to the eye doctor and get a proper pair of glasses.

You can follow the live Leaderboard and track our progress throughout the 3 days. PLEASE forward this to your networks and help us win! The nonprofit with the most number of unique donors will win an additional $5,000!

Learn more about Spring2ACTion at

http://www.localkicks.com/article.jsp?ID=4692 and


Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Guest House

-Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Leadership in Business and Career Development Award

On April 1, 2011 the Executive Director of Friends of Guest House, Kari Galloway, was recognized for her outstanding work and contribution to the community by the Alexandria Commission for Women. She was given the Leadership in Business and Career Development award for her hard work and innovative strategic planning. Congratulations Kari!

AlexandriaNews.org wrote:

"Leadership in Business and Career Development - Recipient: Kari Galloway

Kari Galloway is the Executive Director of Guest House, a benchmark program that helps transition women from imprisonment into meaningful, productive lives. She has been the Executive Director for 6 years now, and she is credited with saving the program. Galloway leads the staff in teaching several dozen residents every year life skills and common sense, to believe in themselves, to stop smoking and live clean and sober, to write a resume and obtain employment, to rekindle relationships with family and all the while to keep trying. She inspires young social work students, other employees and volunteers at the program. She goes out of her way to create innovative programs for the residents. She has created a Speaker’s Bureau, a Total Woman program and an expansion of the housing options for the residents after leaving Guest House.”

Read the full article HERE

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Speakers Bureau Event - Haze

Several members of the Guest House Speakers Bureau will attend a viewing of Haze, the story of a freshman who tragically died after drinking four bottles of whiskey and six bottles of wine during an initiation process for a fraternity. This film is very powerful and moving – definitely a MUST SEE!

Mark your calendar for Thursday, April 28, from 6:30-9:00 at the Minnie Howard Auditorium, 3801 W. Braddock Rd.

The movie will be followed by a panel discussion, including youth, parents and persons in recovery. Guest House Speakers Bureau will take part in the panel discussion!

Click HERE for the flyer!

Or click HERE to watch the video online!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Friends of Gust House is relaunching our blog!

We are working to have monthly briefings about activities and events that Guest House is involved with and weekly updates from the ladies in a program.

We are expanding our presence in social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. We are looking forward to connecting with other organizations and people who have an interest in helping women recognize their potential and break from the cycle of incarceration.

Please follow us and keep up to date on what is going on at Guest House:

Twitter: @ReentryAdvocacy
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Guest-House/122885674453360

More updates to follow shortly! Stay tuned!