We celebrated our one-year anniversary on September 29, 2018! Since we opened, we have welcomed seven women into our program and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of our eighth resident at the end of this month. We have three residents who celebrated a year at Magdalene this month. All three of our founding residents are working full-time, saving money, reconnecting with children, and making plans for graduation. We could not be prouder of their hard work this past year.
This program is truly life-changing, and we remain grateful for the community of friends and volunteers who brought this program to life. We are thankful for all the volunteers, staff, and interns who have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of our residents and who continue to walk beside the women on their healing journey. Lastly, we are honored to have the opportunity to work with eight brave women who are dedicated to changing their life. The residents inspire us each and every day.
A goal for residents is achieving financial independence. Upon entering the program, each resident meets with a representative from Credit Counseling of Arkansas (CCOA) and a Program Staff to evaluate their finances, debt, and any outstanding fines/fees. Since all current residents of MSH are employed now, they are making follow-up appointments with CCOA staff to help them plan for the future. This non-profit agency helps people “master their personal finances through free budget, credit, and housing counseling.” MSH residents are focused on saving for the future and are required to save at least $50.00 a month in their savings account. With the help of our Matched Savings Program, residents who save $1,200 receive a match of $1,200 towards an apartment deposit, car, education, or outstanding debt/fines. We are thankful to Generations Bank for making these accounts possible and for contributing $200.00 towards the match. Recently two residents have been able to use their savings to purchase vehicles. Having transportation is a huge step toward independence.
MSH staff and volunteers work hard to help residents reconnect with their families. Due to the generosity of one donor, a resident was able to visit with her children in Denver, Colorado this year. Other volunteers have opened their homes to house women and visiting children. Visitation allows the women to regain trust and rebuild their relationship with their children with the hope of permanent reunification following graduation from the program.
Women may be granted brief visits with children prior to establishing custody. Children have spent time visiting at MSH and interacting with their mothers as well as other residents. Donors have provided age-appropriate toys and a toy chest for visiting children. The routine of having children at the house has “normalized” the recovery process for many of the women.
Recently MSH has established a “visitation suite” for children to have overnight visits with their mothers. There is a large space separate from the main part of the house that will be used for the visits. The downstairs studio has two couches to make TV viewing and game playing comfortable, and the upstairs office space will convert to a bedroom. There is a full bathroom in this space and plenty of room for a sofa bed.
We want to thank everyone who has donated to make this visitation suite a reality. The children love having their own place to get out all of the graciously donated toys and their own bed to share with their mother at night. This is a significant milestone in our program, and we are glad we get to help our residents reunite with their families.
Magdalene Serenity House is licensed by Arkansas Community Corrections (ACC) as a Self-Managed Community for women. Recently the state Reentry Coordinator from ACC made a site visit to the house.
The visit went extremely well, and he commended the great work we are doing at MSH. In order to maintain our licensure all residents are required to participate in at least 15 hours of programming a week. Several volunteers, staff, and interns offer meditation, yoga, relapse prevention, poetry, and life skills at various times to accommodate the residents’ busy schedules. In addition to attending groups, residents are required to participate in two hours of physical activity of their choice as well as time for self-care. Residents submit weekly time sheets documenting their work and program hours. Balancing life and work is an important goal for residents and staff.
Outstanding Volunteer Shannon Mitchell
Shannon has volunteered with Magdalene since 2017. She is a member of St. Paul’s and has lived in Fayetteville since 2000. She is a mother of two “almost grown” daughters, an art consultant/appraiser, and also volunteers at the Walton Arts Center. Shannon provides countless rides (especially early morning) and does weekend visitation supervision. We could not do this work without her support! We appreciate you Shannon. Interested in volunteering? Contact our Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet Our Team
MSH is fortunate to have a professional, dedicated staff of social workers.
April Bachrodt, Chief Operating Officer, has a bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in social work from the University of Kansas. April was on the faculty of the University of Arkansas School of Social Work for three years and was a founding board member of MSH. She is passionate about serving women who have experienced trauma and incarceration and believes wholeheartedly in the mission of MSH. April oversees the daily operations of MSH, supervises staff and interns, and works with the residents.
Kay Gallagher, Assistant Program Director, has a master’s in social work from Arizona State University, where she taught nursing prior to moving to Arkansas. Kay brings a unique perspective to the program as a nurse and social worker. Kay does one-on-one work with the residents, group facilitation, and program development and evaluation.
Liz Sims, Volunteer Coordinator, received her bachelor’s in social work from the University of Arkansas. Prior to coming to MSH, Liz worked at Lifestyles Inc. as a Program Coordinator. Liz has the monumental task of recruiting, training, and coordinating volunteers. Liz enjoys working with volunteers and residents and appreciates seeing the results of everyone working together.