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Giving Circle of Hope and Friends of Guest House

(Aug 8, 2018) Catherine Read sits down with Cyndi Shanahan, Governance Chair of the Giving Circle of Hope, along with Kari Galloway and Heidi Christiansen from Friends of Guest House. The Giving Circle of Hope creates positive change in Northern Virginia through engaged and collective philanthropy.  The Friends of Guest House is a nonprofit dedicated to helping women re-enter society after incarceration, and is a an organization that has received multiple grants from the Giving Circle of Hope.

Giving circles are gaining in popularity, as it is a way for people to come together and make a big impact in their community. Shanahan shares that the Giving Circle of Hope was founded over 14 years ago, and they have granted over $1 million dollars to small, local organizations over the past 14 giving seasons.  Each member of the giving circle is asked to contribute $415, and collectively the members vote on how the money is to be spent.

Cyndi ShanahanEach year, the giving circle entertains proposals from 35-40 nonprofits, and after thorough vetting and member voting, they make grants of up to $7,000 to each receiving organization. Members can be as involved as they wish. Shanahan notes that some people become very active by both donating and vetting nonprofits, while others simply write a check and vote on their favorite proposals. The giving circle has grown over the past 14 years, and now makes an approximate $100,000 impact on an annual basis.

Each year, the Giving Circle of Hope holds two key events. The fall event is called Together We Give, which kicks off the annual grant review cycle. Organizations who have been recipients of past grants come and share the impact that has been made thanks to the generosity of the Giving Circle.   This year the event will be held on September 13th at 6:30pm at the Reston Town Center.

In the spring the group hosts their annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, scheduled this year on April 26th. There is a $30 entrance fee; each patron is given a handmade pottery bowl and can eat unlimited soup and homemade breads from food donated by local restaurants. 100% of the proceeds from the event will benefit Food for Others.

In the second segment of the show, Catherine interviews Heidi Christiansen and Kari Galloway from Friends of Guest House. Their organization has been the recipient of multiple grants from the Giving Circle of Hope over the past few years. Based in Alexandria, The Friends of Guest House is the largest nonprofit organization serving formerly incarcerated women in Virginia. The organization was founded 45 years ago and serves 26 women at a time, with services ranging from workforce development to financial literacy to assistance with childcare services.

Heidi Christiansen FOGHHeidi is a graduate of the program, and speaks passionately about what this program has meant to her. She now dedicates her life to working with other women to help them find their way. As they work with the women, they are always dreaming up new and better ways to deliver their services. Kari has been with Friends of Guest House for the past 13 years, and has been thrilled to work with the Giving Circle of Hope on multiple occasions.

The first grant that they applied for was to fund a pilot program to roll out an in-house workforce development program. After working out the kinks through the pilot phase, they applied for and received a follow-up grant so that they could expand the program and help make it a permanent part of their organization. The workforce development program is now an integral part of the services that they offer, and it is getting stronger every year. The grants received from the Giving Circle of Hope have made a huge impact on their organization, and in the lives of all of the women who have graduated and moved on to full employment.

Galloway shares that they have a big upcoming event being held on September 11th at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington, called Helping Women Find Their Voice. This program is an opportunity for the residents and graduates to come out and share their stories with the public. Giving these women the opportunity to share their stories is a true gift, as it gives them the courage that they need to face some of the most traumatic events of their lives. It also gives those in attendance a glimpse into the struggles that these women face when they re-enter society. Galloway is targeting women-owned businesses in Alexandria to help sponsor the event.  You can find more information and order tickets online , Facebook page and by following Friends of Guest House on Twitter @ReentryAdvocacy.

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