In 2008, St. Paul’s Episcopal church began their prison ministry celebrating Eucharist each Sunday evening at the local women’s prison. From this experience and the talents of Kathy McGregor, The Prison Stories Project was born and a team of artists, writers, storytellers, and musicians began working with the inmate residents to help them find a way to tell their story and dream of the future. A script was produced from the women’s words and performed by professional actors to the local and prison community. Following the tragic overdose of one of the women the Prison Stories Project had served, the group decided that they had to search for a solution to provide safe, long-term, supportive care for women paroling out of the local correctional center. Putting ideas into action, Reverend Suzanne Stoner, visited Thistle Farms in Nashville and became acquainted with Reverend Becca Stevens, who founded the organization in 1997. Learning about their long-term, holistic approach to recovery and high success rate, the model was brought back to Northwest Arkansas in 2013 and welcomed by the community.
The Magdalene Serenity House Board of Directors was formed in 2015 and later we closed on a beautiful property perfectly suited for helping women rebuild their lives. Our 501(c)(3) was obtained in 2016 and in September 2017 Magdalene Serenity House opened its doors to welcome our first residents. Today we are part of a national network of over 40 programs implementing this life changing model across the county. We believe in this model and its positive impact on our residents, their families, and our community.
In 2019, we celebrated our first graduate and look forward to continuing to walk alongside our residents as they embark on their journey toward healing, recovery, and reintegration into the community.
What Drives Us
One of the women who had been in our Prison Stories Project went home. Nobody knows what happened, but she ended up with a hole in her vein and too much stuff in her system. She died of an overdose either accidentally or on purpose, and it just broke our hearts. We did her funeral service, and we said, “We’ve got to do something.”
-Reverend Lowell Grisham