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.