Laura Bulluck gives disenfranchised women tools to achieve a better life
Every time I see Mary at her life skills class at Hope’s Crossing, she says I saved her life. She left home at 14 because of her father’s abuse. When he discovered that she had become a prostitute to survive, he made her work for him. That led to a life of drugs, alcohol, and more abusive relationships. She was incarcerated in her 30s for aggravated assault. I started Hope’s Crossing for women like Mary whose traumatic experiences have led to bad choices. They need tools to transition to a successful life. That’s our mission.
I founded my nonprofit in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2010, the same year I graduated from Walden with an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership. I had worked in healthcare for 20 years when I decided I wanted to make a change. My husband encouraged me to go back to school and suggested Walden. At orientation, I was moved by the university’s philosophy of academic excellence and commitment to social change. One phrase stuck out: “scholar-practitioners.” I wanted that badge.
I had started a small group called “Ladies in Power” and hosted quarterly meetings where guest speakers would talk to women from underprivileged communities about empowerment and other issues. Through these lunches, I met many women who had been incarcerated and did not know how to transition back to the normal life we all take for granted. They were starving for knowledge—they just didn’t know where to find it.
That inspired me: Maybe I could give them the tools they needed. That idea started small but grew into what became Hope’s Crossing—thanks to Walden and to my late husband, who suggested the nonprofit’s name (and designed its logo) and encouraged me to make my passion my career.
In an early course, we had to define the organization we wanted to lead. That exercise helped me zero in on the leader I needed to be to make Hope’s Crossing succeed: loving, caring, and nonjudgmental. A class on strategic planning helped me redefine its mission: to help underprivileged women lead successful lives by teaching them basic life skills, from balancing a checkbook to setting boundaries and having integrity. We also focus on stress and anger management as well as co-dependent behavior.
Most of our funding comes through private donations—my strategic planning course helped with this as well. I realized that I have to convince donors that the women I’m serving have value and that they are worth more as vital participants in our world and economy than behind bars. But first, I have to make the women realize that they are worthy. That they can get beyond their trauma and lead healthy and successful lives. Like Mary.
I have witnessed her blossom. She got a job at a call center and is moving into her very first apartment. She is becoming a vibrant member of society. Stories like this inspired Hope’s Crossing. Walden helped me make it a reality—for me, Mary, and more than 100 other women.
Laura C. Bulluck ’10, an MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership graduate, is the founder and CEO of Hope’s Crossing. The Phoenix-based nonprofit helps women restore hope in their lives and create a pathway to personal and economic sustainability.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Bulluck.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Laura. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there. I like to say my story began 20,824 days ago, I was born into a purpose I had not yet discovered. As a native Phoenician, I had never met anyone who had a story about living a life on purpose. So imagine my amazement when on what I felt was my death bed, God spoke to me telling me the assignment I was working on, as part of my Master’s Degree program, I was to take that assignment and bring it to life. Approximately ten years ago, I was a student at Walden University studying Non-Profit Management and Leadership and I had to identify a social issue in my community and write a hypothetical solution to it. Little did I know that the solution would be named “Hope’s Crossing”. The social issue I focused on was the rapid incline women being incarcerated, losing custody of their children to the foster care system, and caught up in the cycle of recidivism. My research leads me to amazing statistics of women committing non-violent crimes, due to a number of social inequities, but once they had the felony conviction on their record, the opportunity to reclaim their lives and reconnect with their children was little to none. But the most riveting discovery I found was that most of the women incarcerated had been the victim of trauma, addiction, domestic violence, and experiencing very low self-esteem and self-worth.
In 2010, I answered God’s call to bring Hope’s Crossing to life. Interestingly enough, I feel like that is when my story truly begins. Every part of my life up to 2010, we in preparation for me to become the CEO of Hope’s Crossing. Within three years of operation, It became very clear to me that there was a need to expand our mission beyond previously incarcerated women, to help all at-risk women (18 years and older) become whole and healthy. Hope’s Crossing offers life skills programs, employment support, providing resources to other community resources for housing, family reunification, and promoting health and wellness.
All of this great work could not be possible without the passionate volunteers, supporters, and my late husband Darryl Bulluck. He carried out the mission of Hope’s Crossing for the first year of operation until I could take my assignment of CEO. Over the past nine years, we have served over 300 women and look forward to 2020 where we will be celebrating ten years of service to women in our community.
Has it been a smooth road? Let me first begin by saying, no it was not smooth. What I have found through my faith walk as well is anytime you are working in your purpose, it is never easy. As with any non-profit, funding has been a real challenge. You would think that helping women to become contributing members of our community, help them to obtain employment and affordable housing would be a no brainer for funders, but not the case. But in absence of state and federal funding, there are some amazing small business owners, passionate individuals, and the community-based group that believes in giving women a second chance.
Access to transitional housing resources for single women was a greater barrier than expected. What became clear very quickly is that there is a real shortage of transitional housing for not only women but for men as well. My goal is to seek out these providers and form collaborative relationships to ensure these resources are available when needed.
Creating community awareness and connecting to the population we serve has also been a challenge. Because this population of women is virtually invisible, it is hard to find someone that doesn’t want to be found. But we are seeing a shift in this area where women are tired and ready to come out of the shadows and reclaim the life they so desire.
Please tell us about your organization. Hope’s Crossing was founded in 2010 with the desire to help women returning home from our prison system, get back on their feet. Little did I know that this vision was so much bigger than that. There are thousands of women in our communities all over this world that are hurting, struggling, hopeless, homeless, and in recovery from serious trauma, and these are the women we feel compelled to serve. As the founder and CEO, it is my strong belief that women are the backbone to our families and you know as well as I do when your back hurts, nothing is right and nothing gets done. That is what is going on in our lives, in our families and our communities and Hope’s Crossing is here and ready to serve each person that walks through our doors; ready to tackle together the barriers they are facing, the obstacle they need to overcome and welcome them to a place of healing and transformation. This allows women to become whole and healthy and break the cycle not only for themselves but for their children and their children’s children.
In 2020, Hope’s Crossing will be celebrating ten years of serving women in our community and we can’t wait to share with the world the great work we are doing and the countless number of women that are being transformed by the programs and services we provide. Our organization is a volunteer-run and we have some of the most amazing facilitators, social work interns, mentors, and volunteers. We are always looking for the right talent to grow our programs and services, and if that is you, God is calling you to serve and I look forward to meeting you.
Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least? I love the year-round weather found in Phoenix and the fact that you can drive four hours and reach any other climate you would like to experience. From skiing, hiking, swimming, fishing, camping and so many other outdoor experiences you can think of. The diversity of Phoenix is one any Phoenician can be proud of and we are finally, I say finally beginning to develop a culture we can claim as our own.
What I like least about Phoenix is that our transits systems, including roadways and highways, are not keeping up with the demands residents are putting on it. We are one of the fasting growing cities in the US, but our commutes are still a little archaic. I am seeing some improvements and I look forward to the continued growth and diversity of the city I call home.
If individuals are interested in investing in the lives of the women we serve, $25 a month can give women a fresh start toward changing their life and getting back on their feet.
Picture a young woman with five children whose drinking and incarcerations led her to lose custody of them. Nowhere to go but home to a toxic environment, she knew she needed help to get clean and sober and get her children back. Enter Hope’s Crossing, a Phoenix, Ariz., nonprofit organization founded by Laura Bulluck, a 2011 MS in Nonprofit Management and Leadership graduate. Within 18 months, that troubled woman was sober, employed, a peer mentor, and a member of the board of directors at the same nonprofit organization that gave her hope and the tools to overcome life’s challenges.
“We helped her identify triggers that drove her to drink, and she started having more confidence in her ability to remain sober,” Bulluck says. “We worked with her to design a résumé, offered mock interviews, helped her obtain a job, and connected her with a mentor. She recently received a promotion to a management role.”
As CEO and interim executive director of Hope’s Crossing, Bulluck has helped turn lives around. Her nonprofit offers programs and services to women who have experienced trauma and empowers them to be productive community members. Bulluck understands their circumstances: As a single mother of three children, she had faced domestic violence and had no other choice than to live in a shelter.
“I gained wisdom about how to navigate the process and helped other women through some of the same experiences,” she says. “I also began to volunteer and take on a mentor role with the women, and the social service bug bit me. I kept thinking about how I could do this full-time on a larger scale to help more women. I went to Walden to turn this dream into a reality.”
While completing her degree, Bulluck decided to leave her career as a senior information technology manager for a large healthcare company to create Hope’s Crossing. “I was typing papers and doing my homework when it really got me thinking, ‘What am I waiting for? I could lose my life and never live my dream.’”
As the leader of a small nonprofit organization, Bulluck now relies on others who are willing to volunteer to help women in transition. “Volunteers are critical,” she explains. “We wouldn’t be able to operate without them. They are our administrative staff and our assessment coordinators. Our board members are volunteers, too.”
For those interested in volunteering but not sure how to start, Bulluck offers her advice:
Assess your skills, knowledge, and interests. Think of everything you have to offer: Are you a whiz at Excel? Have you organized a group event? Everything you’ve done can be applied in a volunteer role. “I guarantee nonprofits can use your skills,” Bulluck says. “Search your heart, and find your passion. Then seek out the agency that’s doing what you really like to do and go ‘feel’ the experience.”
Look at websites or social media pages of organizations that interest you. These pages will give you insights into the types of volunteer opportunities available to you and may also describe the experiences of current volunteers.
Dig deeper by talking to staff. Meeting face to face will give you an opportunity to learn more about the match between your skills as a volunteer and a nonprofit organization’s needs. “We encourage people to visit us, to feel the energy and the emotional experience they’ll have when they’re helping someone,” says Bulluck. “Every time you volunteer, you should have that same emotional experience, that ‘this is something I love’ feeling.”
What kind of social change agent are you? Bulluck discovered she is a Faith-Inspired Giver, someone whose faith is a major influence in their commitment to social change. Take the quiz based on Walden’s 2013 Social Change Impact Report.
After being under stay at home orders from the Corona Virus for more than 2 months, the State of Arizona is finally starting to reopen retail stores, city parks, and hiking trails. That is all we needed to hear to set our plan in motion to take our first hiking adventure since this crisis.
I am so blessed to have these 2 beautifully spirited friends that love to hike and take quick get-a-ways and am happy to be in tow.
Our adventure on this fine day was to Baldwin Trails, embedded in the beautiful red rocks of Sedona, AZ. How can you go wrong in the immaculate red rock country? So we pack up the Jeep at 4:45 am, grabbed our breakfast and coffee, and off we go. Excited about this opportunity because it has been a while, our ring leader of trail finding gives us the scoop about the trail. It’s only two miles, easy peasy, and the trail loops the base of the mountain. It should be quick and easy for us as we build up our stamina for hiking again. And then she hooked me in; there is a creek we can stop at and the water should be great. That’s it, I’m all in. We get to our destination; found our parking spot and we stock up backpacks with water and our mask. Our minds are set; 2 miles, nice view, creek, circle the mountain, and back to the Jeep. We can do this; we have hiked two-mile trails before.
In the back of my mind, I’m thinking this is going to be a great opportunity to put my rookie photography skills to the test. One of my low key dreams it to take up photography and capture some amazing views from the international travels I have planned. And that I did. Every turn of the trail was filled with picture-perfect moments. Low and behold, my friend says, can you hear that? I think we are close to the creek. We found the creek; put our feet in the cold, brisk, water running over a beautiful red rock with about 10 other people doing the same. We take our 15min detour and we are back to our trail.
It was a busy trail of hikers, bikers, families, and individuals and everyone was so nice and respectful. The trail was well marked, but the longer we hiked the more challenging the trail became. And when you are working on improving your physical health, as we all three are, being challenged a bit was a good thing. I was grateful for my Fitbit to help keep my heart regulated, track my steps, and measure the distance. I also added the compass app to ensure we don’t get lost, lol. Midway into the trail, it became very rocky, the hills were more like a roller coaster, and about 2 hours into the trail, we were all beginning to feel it and our bodies confirmed it. Now each person we saw on the trail became an information bank for us; we would have the same questions for each person we say. How much further do we have to go? Because we are now 2.5 hours into the hike and our belief that this will be a simple hike and we can do it, is coming into question. As a mental mile marker, I said to my hiking budding, “now I understand how people can get up on Camelback Mountain and have to call for help to get down”. What I didn’t want to say out loud was that is exactly how I was feeling. Let’s stop and just call for help. I thought I had reached my capacity to move any further. But I didn’t want to feel like the only one to have put limitations on what I could do. Because after all, as a Christian woman, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”.
Believe it or not, it was at that point, my mind shifted to calling on my faith in God to get through this. So I quietly, said my prayers asking God to help me with just one more step. By now, it 10 am and I’m thinking what have I gotten myself into, my feet are hurting, the sun is getting hot and every turn of the trail would go up in elevation and then go down and back up again. All I wanted to see was any glimpse of the parking lot.
By now, we all have walking sticks found along the trail that has been key for us to keep moving. It became the push we needed to take one more step. I can tell we were all struggling and starting to look inside to keep us going because now we are about 10 feet apart in distance, heads down to keep an eye on our steps with a periodic look back to ask, you good? At this point, we are out of the water, the battery on our phones was at 10% or lower and still no end in sight. Between the three of us, no one would say, “I can’t do this” or “let’s call for help”. The fact of the matter is we were all calling on our faith to get us to the parking lot. We were way beyond our physical limitations; it was about our mental limitations.
If I could just see it, I can believe it.
This became my mantra as we approached every turn around the mountain. At this point, we are four hours into this hike and my feet felt like I was wearing cement shoes. Every step I took required much more effort than the last and I wasn’t sure where the next ounce of effort would come from. But if I could just see the cars leading to the parking lot, I could then believe the finish line was near.
My internal conversation had become so loud that my thoughts were the only thing I could hear. My vision became tunneled and my path was so clear any hikers were approached just moved graciously to the left so we did not break our rhythm of left, right, left. Once again, my inner voice said, If I could just see it (the parking lot), I can believe we can make it.
You see, if you can see it, you really will believe it, just as I did. When we hit the last turn, we saw cars lined the street and our home base, the parking lot. We all looked at one another, high fives all around and we instantly began to give God all the glory for helping us break through our limiting belief and conquered that trail. Until next time,
I never thought I would be telling the world My story and the journey I have been on for the past four years. I have heard all the old cliché’s including “there is real power in your story”, I just didn’t think I would be a living breathing testimony to such cliché. But I have been able to witness is that MY story and YOUR story can be both educational and inspiring for anyone who allows it to reach the inner chambers of their heart and resonate with their spirit. And for others, your story can represent that breakthrough encounter to free them from the burden and responsibility of holding on to a truth that no longer serves them. There are many people walking around in a zombie-like state seeking solutions to the dysfunctional, heartbreaking, abusive behaviors and grief buried within the belief systems and generational pathology that they feel has been handed down to them from generation to generation. These stories vary from experience to experience, from family to family and when it comes to my story, I know that it serves as the medicine needed for anyone my story will resonate with.
Now I’m not talking about any old story, I’m talking about the story that moves you from debilitating grief to an emotional space of reflection and introspective soul-searching. The type of story that is thoughtfully told and shared from a place of healing. My story is just such a story. A thoughtful story, a carefully laid out story that could only be told by me. A story that may sound similar to the one you know, but not exactly. But regardless of how you receive my story, I pray that it will bless you so that you may be a blessing to another. My transformational story is about a journey of healing from deeply felt loss, overwhelming grief, and the hunger to carry on the legacy of a man larger than life.
Grief is an experience that affects people in a variety of ways. But what I can confirm, as I am sure many of you can also, is that there is no blueprint to help you heal for grief. Grief can affect your physical health, mental health, emotional health, and especially your spiritual health. Grieving involves many different emotions, actions, and expressions, all of which helped me come to terms with the loss of my loving husband. As I reflect on this four-year journey and how it drove me to share MY Story, there were 3 key transformational moments that really stood out for me. Even though this is My Story, I’m sure you will find yourself in this story in some capacity.
First, there was ;
The moment of Alignment – I know you think I am crazy talking about finding alignment in the season of deep, dark grief, but that’s why telling my story is so powerful. If I can help someone step into a healing place in this unconventional way, I am all for it. I want to share with you how being Aligned at this moment served as a breakthrough step for me. I spent many days and weeks after my husband abruptly earned his heavenly wings, grieving about what I lost. My soul mate, my husband, my covering, my reason for waking up each morning. And you find yourself thinking, God why would you give me such a beautiful blessing only to take it away so quickly. I felt like God said “Sike”. He gave me a taste of what it looks like, feels like, sounds like, tastes like so that when she takes me to the next level, I will know that glory when I see it. The reality of this loss challenged me to realize the most powerful thoughts of it’s not what I lost, but in fact what I have gained. It was almost like the light was turned on and I began to remember what he will do the most remarkable things and some of the most impactful conversations we would have, to the point that I began to quote some of his most memorable sayings. It suddenly hit me, that reflecting on all the knowledge, skills, wisdom, and tenacity he taught me would have such lasting inspiration that comes from within, embracing the gifts my husband invested to uplift me and become the woman and leader I was called me to be. Aligning my thoughts, my actions, and my new way of life to believe there is a greater plan for my life. Kind of strange, right?
Then, the revelation;
The moment of Clarity – I can still hear my own voice telling me, “you must be clear about what you want for your life”. It was during this part of my journey where I begin seeking knowledge from various resources that felt right. There were times when reading books were what I needed and at other times on the journey, YouTube sermons and inspiring messages were just what the doctor ordered. I often found myself suffering from information overload, hanging on every word trying to determine if I was on the right track. I was torn between “time heals all wounds” and “prayer is the answer” but what I didn’t take into consideration was that I must be clear about who I am becoming and how I want to live my life without the man I loved so deeply. I had to get clear about how I want to show up and take charge of reaching my destiny. This blip on the chart was simply that. A blip. Would I let it take me down, keep me in isolation, and abort my future OR would I find the courage to step fully into a decision to LIVE? It was at this point I begin to realize I could not do this alone. I had to be brave enough, yet vulnerable enough to let the right people inside this deep dark space to help me make sense of it all and turn on the light so that I could see clearly.
And finally, I was emboldened by;
The moment of Trust – Trust may seem like a really strange moment to recognize and acknowledge in My Story, but it was the Crown Jewel of my journey. One thing I have learned about My Story is, if I fail to share My Story, there will be an entire generation of people who will miss out on sharing their Story. Of all the things you can do to make the world a better place, there are a few things more valuable and beneficial than telling your story. What I do know about telling your story is no one can do it better than You. Whether it is one of grief, abuse, addiction, molestation, or one of trauma, people will want to empathize and learn from the battle you fought…..and won. So, why not do it? What would it take for you to tell your Story? Because Your Story has such power, you have to trust yourself enough to tell it in true authenticity. Trust that your story will land on the right ears and sit in the chamber of the right heart to serve as a source of inspiration, a source of discovery, and a source of healing. Your Story will serve as an inspiration to others to produce positive change in their life and in the world.
This four-year journey has taught me so much about my ability to navigate through very difficult experiences and the team of resources that have traveled with me on this journey has been absolutely incredible. I have also developed a mastery level system of transformation and strategic processes that I use to overcome so many more traumatic experiences just like this story of I’ve shared. I can now see the POWER of My Story, which has allowed me to step fully into my purpose which serves women and men to break through barriers to achieving an abundant life.
If you would like to develop your personalize breakthrough strategies to transformation healing, check out the various programs and products on my website (www.lauracbulluck.com).
Let me help you create your MY STORY moment to serve as POWER for others.
Written by Laura C Bulluck, Author of ALL GROWN UP: The Road Less Traveled available online at Amazonhttps://amzn.to/2KQFSNn.
I don’t know about you but I am always looking for ways to live fully and enthusiastically in my business and in my personal life. I think back at times in my life when I had no idea how to make that happen. What would it take for me to live fully and enthusiastically? I spent a number of years trying to figure that out and on my quest for understanding, I read every self-help book, listened to many inspirational messages, and sought out advice from those individuals I respected. Until one of my mentors said to me, “you must become the captain of your own ship”.
What? Is it really that simple? Yes, she said, it really is! She continued and said, as the captain of your ship, you are the decision-maker and will determine the route you take to get to your destination. Identify your crew, take only the things you need and create the roadmap that serves as your compass for direction. Easy right? I just love parables and my mentor is the queen of them… thought-provoking, mindset testing, and Ah-ha moment creating parables.
You don’t have to be the queen of parables to Make It Happen in your life. Earl Nightingale says “All you need is the plan, the road map and the courage to press on to your destination”. I found this quote to be the source of inspiration I needed to create a life where I live fully and enthusiastically. It was really all about developing a Make “IT” Happen mindset.
Living fully and enthusiastically is something we all wish for in life. But how do you take the wish and turn it into YOUR reality? Here are some tips to help you surrender to your fear and take the leap to Make “IT” Happen:
1. Chart the course to your destination. You may think I’m a little corny for saying this, but charting the course for my destination is one of my favorite tips and dares I say the most important. Think about this as creating a killer plan for that very important project you have taken on. When creating that killer plan, there are two very important keys to consider. Know where you are starting and Start with the end in mind. These two keys will help you stay focused on achieving the results you are looking for or in this case, help you reach your destination. So many people too often overthink this step in the process. To chart your course, you are building a series of tasks that you must complete to accomplish YOUR goal or reach your destination. I must tell you the single most important question you must answer in charting your course is to when “YOU HAVE ARRIVED”. In my case, living fully and enthusiastically, I really had to determine what that looks like to me. How will I know when I arrived?
2. Align the team to reach your goal. Going it alone is a romantic notion but few, if any, entrepreneurs ever brought an idea to life without a lot of help. This is also true in our personal life and I don’t know about you, but I believe it really does take a village to create success. Please understand it’s not just any help, but the right help. You must surround yourself with those that see your vision and inspire you to be accountable to your goal. As a former athlete, this particular tip is more relevant today than it has ever been. You don’t want 5 point guards on your basketball team and expect to overcome all the barriers you face with other teams that are more diverse in players or a building a football team filled with quarterbacks expecting to go to the super bowl. This step in the process is about identifying those individuals that not only complement your skills but also fill the gap of what is needed to reach your goal. It just won’t happen. So, as the captain of your own life, you are in charge and have the absolute power to choose who’s on the team or who gets cut from the team
.3. Take only the things you need, and that includes people. I encourage you to take inventory of your skills, the tools you use today, and the support system you have and make the tough decision to determine if you need something you don’t have or have something you no longer need to reach your destination. We are so busy living life, setting and achieving goals that we don’t often allocate time for personal or professional development. This tip is all about taking only the things you need with you and if you don’t need it, leave it behind. I don’t want to sound like your therapist or anything, but to live fully and enthusiastically, you have to lose those behaviors, attitudes, mindset, and even friends that won’t support your vision. You must be willing to identify those things you need and make the necessary investment to acquire them.
I have spent more than 25 years in the corporate workplace and have met some of the most talented, smart, exceptional, and gifted people and for the time we worked together, we were the perfect solution or as we often referred to ourselves as the “secret sauce”. We each had those unique and specific skills and master the technology needed to meet the specific goals of this organization…..until one day we didn’t. It was very difficult for each of us to adapt to new teammates when replacements came but the company had created a new motto of “putting the right people in the right place” and that meant moving people around, adopting new technology, and building a new team. It was an emotional roller coaster, but if the company wanted to Make It Happen, this was a vital step to ensure they achieve the goals they set. When you think about becoming the captain of your own ship, it can be a huge responsibility. These tips will help you nail “IT”.
If you would like to further explore how you can fully apply these tips and more to create the life you want for you, visit my website; www.lauracbulluck.com. Let’s get on a call and talk about your Big Dreams and the life you want for you.