This month, Serving USA is proud to celebrate our women-led partner's trailblazing the This month, Serving USA is proud to celebrate our women-led partner's trailblazing the nonprofit industry through the Word of the Lord during Women's History Month.
We begin with the Director of Community Justice Center (CJC), Kimberly Gragston. CJC seeks to advance community safety, shared responsibility, and healing through evidence-based programming, research, and community-wide training. Personally, Gragston shares that she is a survivor of intimate violence and views that experience as a resource to others in need. She considers the people who have been ostracized due to stigma or past actions and aims to provide genuine support to motivate them toward an optimistic, attainable future. Gragston emphasizes that despite what individuals may believe, "healing is possible" when working with people who have caused severe harm.
An additional notable woman in leadership among the SUSA network is Renee Arnett, Founder and President of His House for Her (HHfH). Their mission is to share the love of Jesus by providing trauma-informed practices in a supportive housing environment to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of at-risk women in recovery. Through their programs, women have access to safe, clean housing, transportation, and healthy food choices. After ten years of working in prison ministry, Arnett identified a need for safe housing. His House for Her was "Something God put in (her) heart," and with the guidance of Christ, Arnett served wherever she could. By sharing her story of the counseling needed within her marriage and personal development, she began to heal from her past and created a vision of the future. A 2016 sketch became a reality in 2019. As of January 2021, HHfH proudly has purchased the dream house, with the ability to buy five more to house 48 women.
Angie Bright is the Executive Director of Wings of Refuge (WoF). WoF is a Christ-centered organization that provides opportunities to survivors of sex trafficking. Beginning with a prayer movement of twelve individuals, WoF has grown to an organization that provides training and research for the aftercare of adult women caught up in commercial sexual exploitation. With goals to Reach, recover, Restore and Rise, WoF delivers education, networking, 24/7 care, trauma work, life skills, and faith exploration. Bright began her journey as a volunteer in 2017 and did whatever she could behind the scenes to increase WoF's reach and increase the size of the home for women. A few years later, she left her commercial loan career of 16 years to become the Executive Director of Wings of Refuge, bringing her financial literacy to the table to teach women about managing money. Bright shared the incredible progress seen on the frontlines and the restoration and healing through Jesus.
To inspire the leaders of tomorrow to break the glass ceiling, we asked what advice they would give to young women who are feeling called to start a nonprofit.
Gragson advises you to talk to people involved in your industry and build your network. People may not always agree with you but hearing differing perspectives will help you grow. She shares the importance of accepting that it is ok to fail or make mistakes. With failure comes a learning experience. You may learn what questions to ask going forward, how to be creative in your planning, and how to adapt when your plan does not go accordingly.
Arnett shared the importance of embracing change, not fearing it. If you feel called to serve in something you are unfamiliar or inexperienced in, research everything you can about the community. She signifies her faith and Christ's influence on her organization, sharing, "if it stays in your heart and doesn't go away, that is a sign you are meant to do it" and "everything that has occurred has been through a lens of faith."
Bright discussed the significance of prayer and teamwork. She shares a quote that resonated with her, "We walk humbly in our brokenness as we grow together," and emphasized that this work does not fix someone, and she is not a savior. Instead, they are on a healing journey together, and we are united as a team.
Join us at Serving USA to partner with the exceptional network of organizations that are "committed to building a community of empathy and activism for those who are forgotten and most in need of assistance."
Questions, comments, or concerns can be relayed to firstname.lastname@example.org