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.