Paul Gallagher, a Principal at Deloitte, has served on Samaritan Inns Board for more than eight years. We sat down with Paul and asked him a few questions about his work with Samaritan Inns.
Why did you join the Board?
“I have been blessed in many aspects of my life and believe in giving back to society. [Attending Dinner Fellowship] opened my eyes to what people with addictions have to deal with. That meal just sort of humanized our clients a lot for me.”
Can you talk about the differences, progress or challenges that we’ve achieved since you’ve joined the board?
When I joined the board, our board was in a major transition period. We had some board members that had been around since the beginning and were leaving the board.
And we were also experiencing a major exodus of major donors [due to the 2008 financial crisis]. [We] needed a primal shift. I think Larry did a masterful job, in terms of diversifying the funding sources away from just private donors, to tapping into the public funds that are available to, to fund treatment. Obviously it was a difficult path to navigate, because you know, you want to stay true to the mission and values of what Killian had set up. Yet, you want to help our program grow and evolve.
What is one challenge Samaritan Inns currently faces?
“Delivering a service the community desperately needs in a highly regulated environment where the rule sets are not well defined is a tough enough challenge. We also need to identify and connect with donors who believe in our mission. Some of the stories I’ve heard, it’s a highly personal connection—like someone dealing with addiction in their family—It’s tough…it’s something we have to overcome; people’s belief systems that, ‘Oh they made their bed now they have to lie in it.’
There’s a stigma…but I think there’s a lot of other factors in life that lead them to develop addictions.”
What is on the horizon for this year?
“As an organization, we need to make sure the Women with Children Program continues to be successful. Because, it’s a growth area and it’s such an underserved need in the community. Also, I hope we can double or triple our social media followership. It would be great if we could establish an ‘Adopt a Client’ program…where donors could establish a personal connection with our clients.“
How can someone get involved with our mission?
“Donate to Samaritan Inns – every dollar matters. Come volunteer through preparing and serving a fellowship meal. Tell your friends and families about Samaritan Inns’ mission and ask them to donate their time, talent and treasure to further the Samaritan Inns’ mission.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
“Being on the board is incredibly rewarding…knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of the men, women we serve. And I really hope that we can continue to grow the Women with Children Program because we are making it possible for mothers participating in our program to actually raise their children and make a difference in their lives.”
The Board at Samaritan Inns is integral to ensuring our mission to serve the most underprivileged members of our communities is successful. We are very proud to have Paul’s wisdom, dedication, and passion contribute toward our goal of breaking the generational cycle of substance use disorder and homelessness in our Nation’s Capital.
Last December, at our Clark Davis Breakfast, as the program winded down, a group of three men approached the mic. With just two songs, a keyboard, and three powerful voices, the group made a lasting impact on everyone there through the power of their music.
This band is Something Special #3. The band includes Kenny McElhaney, Lorenzo Thorne (a Samaritan Inns Resident), and Willy Thorne, Lorenzo’s brother. While this may have been our first time experiencing their music, this is far from the beginning of their story.
The Early Days
Back in the late 1980’s Kenny, inspired by artists like Donny Hathaway and Zapp, wanted to start an R&B band to sing love songs. He picked out the name Something Special but struggled to find others who were dedicated enough to make the band successful. Then, one day while Kenny was practicing, Willy overheard the music. He walked right in and started singing the high notes. Willy blew Kenny away and has been with him ever since.
Lorenzo watched his brother and Kenny for a while as they practiced and performed. He didn’t get involved until he saw more people dropping out. Eventually, they called Lorenzo into the group and within a week or two, they really started to gel and have been together ever since.
The journey comes with its fair share of setbacks though. On three separate occasions, the group called it quits. “The devil had us going at one another. We weren’t really strong in our faith, our growth, and in our walk. But we recognize that. I’d say, ‘Let’s just cut it. Give you guys some time to yourselves,’” Kenny revealed.
This certainly took a toll on everyone, but Willy especially. “It hurt me, every time we went falling back like that; it hurt me real bad inside,” Willy confessed, “Like when this group breaks up like that. It really bothers me because I know we had a lot of things waiting for us.”
“Life can show up, and we had our ways. At the time, we didn’t realize that God was shaping us, molding us. We didn’t realize it,” Lorenzo added, “When I was going through my 28-day program … going through my growth. We weren’t singing together. We were separated. But, when I got stronger, and when they got stronger in the Word, that’s when the Lord put us back together.”
“I went through a dark side of life. My brother and I lost our parents to violent deaths.
I remember when the devil tried to take my life. He actually wanted me to drive my car into the Anacostia River. But, thankfully, God had another plan for me. He showed me that I’m not going to die. But, I’d be humiliated. Stuck out in the river, sitting on top of my car, waiting for help. He showed me the fireman, the boats–just a flash—but He showed it to me. And He told me to get out and pray.
And I felt the wind for the first time. I saw the trees dancing with the rhythm of life. I heard the sounds of the birds.
I was homeless, staying in an emergency shelter. I went to the director and said ‘I’m ready to get some help.’ I wanted to go somewhere where people call me by my name, Lorenzo. Not Lo’, or ‘Renzo. No ‘Zo. Lorenzo. And that’s when I came to Samaritan Inns.
I spoke to Miss Lynette, and she said she didn’t hold spots for nobody. But I didn’t have my ride anymore! But, if you know Miss Lynette, she’s going to give it to you raw. But she has so much compassion. She held a spot for me [in the 28-day program]. I graduated because of Miss Lynette.”
Lorenzo graduated from that program, and is now a resident in the Affordable Housing Community. The fire for the Lord that was lit the day he stared down the Anacostia River and his presumed fate burns stronger and stronger. He is a Deacon at his church, which is located across the street from Tabitha’s House.
When Lorenzo walks through the door of Tabitha House, whether he’s leaving for work, coming home, going to band practice, or just walking a guest out the door, he always taps a worn sheet of paper, a poem written over a cross and a photo of mountains. Or, as Lorenzo calls it, “the blue.” This is much more than just a sheet of paper to Lorenzo. “It’s my shield. I wouldn’t walk out that door without tapping that blue. If you read it, you’ll tap it too.”
About three years ago, as each matured in their spiritual journey, the band took on a new identity. For nearly 20 years, they sang love songs for women and couples. Now, they still sing love songs, but to God. Lorenzo shared, “We write to convict you. The music is about poetry of love, poetry of peace, and it all comes from heaven.” The name of the band took on new meaning, as well. It isn’t just about the “#3” members of the band but about the “#3″ they
sing for: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
When the band members aren’t practicing or performing, they are dedicated to their work and community. Lorenzo works for Seabury Resources for the Aging as a driver. Kenny works for Behavioral Tech helping students dealing with classroom discipline issues. And Willy works for Checker’s. Lorenzo called Willy one of his heroes because of how hard he works, and motivates him to become a better worker as well. Each of them use their work as a living testimony for God. Kenny shared how he bought new shoes for a child whose shoes were falling apart the day before.
They also shared their dreams for the band. These dreams are not about fame but about service. They want the band to get a truck and pass out turkeys for Thanksgiving, perform at hospitals and homes, go to the park and set out a feast for homeless people to share with them, create a forum for military service, elderly, and youth to come together and learn from one another, and ultimately, if they could secure the funding, open their own residential building for those in need. Lorenzo summed it up as “bringing back the love of people.”
Kenny stated, “That’s what we’re trying to do now. Go out and vibe with the people of the neighborhood. Let them know. This is what Something Special #3 does. This is what we want to do for the Lord.”
On May 4th, Something Special #3 will perform for us once again during the Celebration of Life; a time to reflect on and celebrate the success stories and recovery of our clients, residents, and alumni. A celebration they know well. “We will [sing] ‘I Remember,'” Lorenzo shared as he thought back on his own journey, “I think we will have a lot of brothers and sisters who can relate. They remember where they’ve been and where they are today.”
Samaritan Inns has over 30 years of experience helping men and women in the District of Columbia recover from drug and alcohol addictions. The new Women with Children Program at the Clark Inn marks an opportunity for Samaritan Inns to help a new population that has been critically underserved for decades: addicted mothers and their children.
While the recovery of each mother in the Women with Children Program is of vital importance, their children need our help too.
With the overall goal of creating a safe, sober, and holistic family unit, Samaritan Inns opened the Child Development Center at the Clark Inn, licensed by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). Focusing on the earliest ages of development (zero to five years old), the young children who accompany their mothers to the Women with Children Program are in great hands.
Kelly Williams, the Director of the Child Development Center, has implemented a Creative Curriculum that gives the children the opportunity to learn things independently.
“The goal is for them to put in their own ideas and think about it. It’s more so about them getting the opportunity to have a lot of hands on activities and to think about what they want to do,” Kelly said.
The children engage independently and with each other through arts and crafts, dress up, writing, puzzle solving, and more – but it’s not just play time. Through these activities, children are able to express their individualism and explore new and exciting ideas as well.
“It’s not just play,” Kelly said. “The children learn different things from play with each creative curriculum activity. From math and science, to social skills, to proper exercise, techniques, and so on.”
Within the Creative Curriculum, Kelly makes sure our program fits each child’s needs. “Because child A is not going to be like child B,” she explains, “They’re not going to have the same needs. So you have to teach each child like an individual.”
As crucial as the development of the children in the Child Development Center is, Kelly benefits from working with them too. “I love working with children,” Kelly said. “I get to see the changes in them. They brighten up your day. If anything else is going on in your life, they just know how to give you that perfect smile that will make everything okay.”
For Kelly, the most rewarding aspect of the work she does at the Child Development Center is fostering growth within each child to prepare them for their future. “You get to mold them,” Kelly shares, “Just to know they are having positive social skills is rewarding to me.”
The District of Columbia has one of the highest rates of alcohol and drug abuse in the country. Homelessness in the region remains a pervasive issue and approximately half of homeless individuals have substance abuse issues.
“As I went through this last year of my life, I went through the ‘woe is me’ phase.’ It was just me and the bottle,” said Victoria, a recent graduate of the Transitional Living program, Samaritan Inns’ middle phase of treatment.
While the need for transitional living spaces in DC is great, breaking the cycle of addiction and homelessness in our Nation’s Capital can not be achieved by more beds alone.
“Being at [a non-treatment shelter in DC], all you’d see is alcohol,” Victoria said. “It was the hardest thing for me to do. Start saying no.” It takes long term recovery work, including a supportive living environment separate from old circles, neighborhoods, and even some shelters, where drug and alcohol abuse remains untreated and unmonitored; for sobriety to take hold.
The middle phase of Samaritan Inns’ recovery program helps create a new life for individuals suffering from addictions – a life filled with accountability, responsibility, and loving respect. It provides the missing link for men and women to successfully transition from their initial sobriety to long-term recovery – and Victoria reached that goal with the help of program director, Lynette Daniels. “Ms. Lynette is tough but she cares,” Victoria said, who is now a resident in Samaritan Inns’ long-term recovery phase. “The tears Lynette cries, they are not a waste.”
“The middle phase serves as the link that allows men and women the ability to stretch and go deeper” Lynette said. “With the understanding that the counseling staff is there to support them in becoming individuals who are empowered and have the tools necessary to live a long and healthy life without the use of drugs and alcohol.”
Building upon an ongoing, successful capital campaign, Samaritan Inns plans to renovate two previously owned buildings, the Fairmont and Ontario Inns, which will support 50 men and 30 women a year in the middle phase of treatment while providing specialized addictions counseling and ongoing support services.
The increased number of men and women served by the expansion will strengthen the link between Samaritan Inns three phases of treatment and provide hope and a home for many individuals in need.
“The miracle’s still not over for me,” Victoria said. “It’s just a beginning.”
The cycle of addiction in our Nation’s Capital can be broken. The residents at Samaritan Inns like Victoria are working toward that goal.
“The support here is phenomenal. I am so grateful for this place,” Victoria said. “You have to keep pushing through. The moment you quit, you don’t quit Samaritan Inns, you quit yourself. I didn’t quit,” she said. And neither will Samaritan Inns.