Life-changing Christmas gifts for children of prison inmates

Kevin Almestica was born in Rikers Island Prison 23 years ago.  Three days later, his mother handed him over to Mayra Alemar to raise until she was released from prison.  Mayra was working with Prison Fellowship when she first met Kevin’s pregnant mom.  Kevin’s biological parents and godfather were all dead by the time he was 12, and Mayra wound up raising Kevin to adulthood while also caring for five other children.  Kevin joins us to talk about his experiences growing up, and the profound impact that Mayra and Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree program had on him.  We’re also joined by Jim Forbes, the Director of Communications for Prison Fellowship, who will give us details on their Angel Tree program. 

The importance of listening

The importance of listening is something that countless guests have shared with us on Grace in 30.  Yet it seems to be in short supply these days.  When we don’t have our heads buried in our mobile phones or connected to earbuds, we’re formulating the next thing we’re going to say while someone else is talking.  Even worse, our failure to truly listen leads us to miss out on the need, pain, and suffering of people all around us.  Today’s guest is Art Bennett, CEO and President of Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese, and the co-author of Tuned In: The Power of Pressing Pause and Listening.  Art joins us to talk about what listening really is, how to do it with purpose, and the benefits and joys of doing so.

Reconnecting homeless people with their loved ones via video messages and social media

Ask yourself, where would you be without family and friends?  The answer, too often, is homeless and possibly on the streets.  Miracle Messages helps people experiencing homelessness to record short videos for their long-lost relatives.  They use social media and volunteers to locate their loved ones and try to deliver the messages as a way of reuniting families.  Restoring those relationships at the beginning of a recovery process is the goal, and they hope to unite 1% of the world’s homeless population with their relatives by 2021.  How cool would it be to use our cell phones not only for texting and selfies but also as a tool to help end homelessness and help our neighbors in need.  Today we’re joined by Kevin Adler, the Founder and CEO of Miracle Messages.  Kevin joins us to share how this idea came about, some stories of family reunions, and how they plan to reach their audacious goal. 

Getting people engaged in our communities and democracy

It was a beautiful thing to see the scenes of rescue and kindness during the recent hurricanes.  Nobody was asking people who they voted for or their position on confederate statues as they helped each other with patience and dignity.  This begs a question.  How do we get people treating each other like this and serving one another absent some form of tragedy?  Tonight we’re joined by Kristin Cambell, the Executive Director of PACE (Philanthropy for Active Civil Engagement), a learning collaborative of over 45 diverse philanthropies that invest in getting people engaged in our communities and democracy.  Some of their members include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, and the Case Foundation.  Kristin joins us to talk about this and other important questions, and how her organization is working to address them.

An haute couture fashion designer reveals God’s beauty

In the early 90s, a young haute couture fashion designer named Aleona Isakova became a finalist in the prestigious Nina Ricci fashion competition in Moscow.  She also became the public face and designer for a Russian company, and she appeared to be on top of the world.  But she soon found herself thinking, “Is this all there is, simply living and designing clothes?”  She would eventually have a vision of a collection of haute couture dresses that represent the story of the Bible, and a businessman she barely knew would give her a half-million dollars to bring her vision to life.  Her Beauty by God collection has since been shown in London, Jerusalem, Moscow, Australia, and America.  Aleona and her husband now live in the United States and she recently launched the Leonard Charitable Foundation, Inc. in honor of the gentlemen who so graciously funded her collection.  Aleona joins us to talk about her experiences in Russia, her personal transformation, and a fashion design competition her foundation is sponsoring to motivate talented fashion designers to create God-inspired designs to be revealed at DC Fashion Week in Washington in September 2018.  We’re also joined by Annabel Foery, the foundation’s Treasurer. 

Retired Congressman Frank Wolf fights for human rights and religious freedom

Former Congressman Frank Wolf left Congress in 2014 after serving 17 terms (34 years) to focus full-time on his passions of human rights and religious freedom.  He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative where their mission is to create a world where religious freedom is recognized as a fundamental human right.  Congressman Wolf joins us to talk about the current state of these rights and freedoms across the globe, his time in Congress, and the work he is doing today including the development of a Congressional scorecard that encourages and commends congressional action on these issues. 

The radical prison transformation of a violent white supremacist

Russ Kloskin grew up in a family marked by violence, drug use, and poverty.  At age seven his mom got him high on marijuana, and at age 11 she took him with her to perform a burglary.  At age 12 he was arrested for the first time, and at age 15 he was arrested for armed robbery and tried and convicted as an adult.  Russ would spend 27 of the next 35 years in prison where he became a member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, one of the most violent white supremacist prison gangs in the U.S., briefly rising to the level of President during the late 90s.  During a 7-year stint in solitary confinement, Russ began to see the anger and rage that had come to fill his heart and radically changed his life.  He joins us to talk about his experiences and the work he is now doing to help prisoners successfully re-integrate with society when they are released.

Why capitalism is the best economic system for lifting up people and societies

Over four years ago, Anne Bradley gave birth to her daughter, Bailey Grace, nine weeks premature.  After her delivery, Bailey spent five weeks in an incubator with a tiny tube that passed through her nose and down to her stomach to feed her.  Anne often wondered what she would have done if she lived somewhere like Bangladesh where the type of medical care we take for granted isn’t widely available.  She also thought about that tiny breathing tube and the people who conceived, designed, tested, made, and delivered it – people who almost certainly encounter mundane and frustrating things in their jobs and never get to see the impact of their work on folks like Anne and Bailey.

Anne is the Vice President of Economic Initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics; teaches at Georgetown and George Mason Universities; and is the co-editor of two books including the recently-released Counting the Cost: Christian Perspectives on Capitalism.  She joins us to talk about the higher purpose and impact of our work, no matter how ordinary it may seem; and how capitalism, while imperfect, is the best system we’ve got for lifting up people and societies.

Transforming prisons into places of economic, social, and spiritual flourishing

There are over 2.2 million prisoners in the United States.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could harness their potential, give them meaningful work, and pay fair wages that they could use to help their families outside of prison?  Well tonight’s guest has done just that.  Since 2010, Pete Ochs, CEO of Capital III (“3”), has run businesses inside the maximum and medium security prisons at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility in Kansas.  Pete joins us to talk about how these businesses came about, the profound effect they have had on everyone involved, and the lessons he’s learned over his 40+ year career.   

A thriving local software company promotes compassion, dignity and excellence

Today we’re joined by David DeWolf, the founder and CEO of 3Pillar Global, a local software development firm that has been named an Inc. 5000 fastest growing company in seven of the past eight years.   3Pillar was also recently named a Washington Post Top Workplace for the 3rd consecutive year.  David joins us to talk about the keys to balancing a thriving business, large family, and numerous other responsibilities, all while expressing compassion and honoring the dignity of all.

Inova’s CEO reflects on 30+ years at the helm of the non-profit

Knox Singleton has been the CEO of the Inova Healthcare System for over 30 years.  Under his leadership, the non-profit has grown to serve over 2 million people annually with revenues of $3.3 billion in 2016 and over 16,000 employees at its five hospitals.  Knox joins us to reflect on the changes at Inova during his tenure, the promise of personalized medicine, and the things that most significantly shaped his career and life.   

A preview of the new Museum of the Bible in downtown DC

The Bible is a book unlike any other.  Its contents were written over the course of 1,500 years by 40 different people (from a fisherman to kings); on three different continents; in three different languages; in dramatically different settings (from prison to palaces); and in a wide range of tones including despair, joy, admonishment, and instruction.  And yet its core message and teachings are unified and consistent throughout.

Despite the fact that over 6 billion Bibles have been printed, though, ignorance about its content, history, and impact abounds.  A new museum opening in Washington D.C. on November 17th has been designed to address this.  The Museum of the Bible is a brand new, 430,000-square-foot facility just two blocks from the National Mall and three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.  Today we’re hosting Dr. William Guice, Director of Church Engagement for the museum, who joins us to talk about this one-of-a-kind facility, the amazing book behind it, and why it’s important. 

Helping teen moms build a better future

At age 17, just a week before she was scheduled to leave for college with a full-ride volleyball scholarship, Autumn Williams discovered she was 24 weeks pregnant.  At age 20, Cynthia Wood, a high-school dropout living from day-to-day, also discovered she was pregnant.  The two met and became friends, and when Autumn decided to form a non-profit called Two Percent Project that helps teen moms build a better future, Cynthia couldn’t resist joining her.  Both women now have two children, work full-time jobs, and spend about as much time on their non-profit as they do on their work.  They join us to talk about the initial shock of finding out they were pregnant, the unique challenges faced by teen moms, and the hope they offer young women in similar situations.

A method to produce genuine and lasting racial reconciliation

We live in a country and world characterized by racial, political, economic, and religious division.  We desperately need reconciliation, i.e., to tear down the walls that separate us.  But how do we do that?  Today, we’re hosting John Slye, Senior Pastor of Grace Community Church in Arlington and Falls Church, a church for people who don’t go to church.  John joins us to talk about the keys to genuine and lasting reconciliation, and to challenge us to get out of our comfort zone and take on the task.  (This is a replay of a program that aired on March 15, 2017.)

A 12-year-old Fairfax girl's story of human trafficking

It's hard to believe, but human trafficking (especially teen sex trafficking) is a significant problem in Northern Virginia.  This past January was National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month so we decided to focus on the issue back then.  We were joined on January 11 by Barbara Amaya, a survivor of human trafficking from age 12 through 21, who now works as a human rights advocate and is the author of the award winning book Nobody’s Girl, A Memoir of Lost Innocence, Modern Day Slavery and Transformation.  We were also joined by Kay Duffield, Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Human Trafficking Initiative (NOVA HTI), a non-profit that is working to eradicate human trafficking in the local area.  Barbara and Kay shared their stories with us and told us how we can join them in working to eliminate this problem from our communities.

A local businessman who's been serving Sri Lankans since the 2004 tsunami

In 2004, the 3rd largest earthquake ever recorded struck the Indian Ocean triggering a series of tsunamis that killed at least 230,000 people in 14 countries.  The earthquake caused the entire planet to vibrate and triggered additional earthquakes as far away as Alaska.  In Sir Lanka, at least 36,000 people were killed.  Watching events unfold halfway around the world, local businessman Jack Schwab felt compelled to go to Sri Lanka and help.  He quickly formed a team that was on the ground within weeks of the disaster and has been serving the people of Sri Lanka ever since.  Jack joins us to talk about those dark days when he first arrived, the love he has developed for the people he has served, and how anyone can respond to the promptings of their heart and make a difference, no matter how busy they are.   

Millennials walk across America promoting a Culture of Life

Back in 1993 on World Youth Day, Saint Pope John Paul II challenged young people to hit the road and get out on the highways and byways to spread the Gospel of Life.  A young man named Steve Sanborn heard that call and decided to do something.  In the summer of 1995, Steve and some of his fellow students at Franciscan University of Steubenville organized a pro-life walk across America covering 3,200 miles in 11 weeks.  Seeing the overwhelming support they received on their mission, Steve founded a non-profit – Crossroads – which has been organizing walks each summer ever since.  As of today, over 1,000 young people have witnessed to millions of Americans as they crossed the country in dedication to this cause.  Tonight, we’re joined by two walkers who finished their cross-country trek today.  Emily Ouillette and Cliff Hearn join us to talk about their experiences this summer, the people they encountered, and the mood of the country towards this issue.   

A blind man’s vision of advocating for the disabled

Two years ago, tonight’s guest, Brandon Charles, packed all his stuff in a duffle bag, boarded a Greyhound bus on a snowy evening, and traveled overnight from Pittsburgh to DC.  When he arrived, he hopped on the metro – something he had never done before – and then took a cab to his temporary new home.  What makes this story compelling is that Brandon was born blind, and his bold move followed a string of challenges he had experienced over several years.  The move turned out to be a major turning point in his life and a great thing for Arlington residents.  Brandon has since begun producing and hosting the Breaking Boundaries program on WERA-LP, an advocacy program for the disabled.  The show airs on Mondays at 4:00 p.m. on 96.7 FM and is in its second year.  Brandon joins us to share his story of self-discovery and higher purpose, and to challenge us in how we see, interact with, and serve the disabled. 

A non-partisan organization operating across faith, racial, and economic boundaries fights for social justice

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a non-partisan organization that operates across faith, racial, and economic boundaries while fighting for social justice in Northern Virginia?  The sort of organization that works its way into government official's offices and the CEO suites of Fortune 50 companies to fight for things like affordable housing, criminal justice reform, school equality, and immigrant rights.  Well today we’re joined by just such a group.  Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) is a “citizens power organization” that has been fighting for the rights of low and medium income residents in Northern Virginia for nearly a decade.  We’ll be talking to Robert Buckman, a leader with VOICE since its formation in 2008.  Robert will be telling us about a number of VOICE’s social justice initiatives and the importance of civic involvement to the health of our communities and country.   

Distributing nearly a million pounds of food each year to our food insecure neighbors in Northern VA

Nearly 20 thousand people in Arlington County are “food insecure,” meaning they often don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  That’s nearly 10% of the population of a county that is consistently ranked among the best places to live in America.  That number skyrockets to almost a quarter-million people when you consider the 21-county area covered by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.  Thankfully, Catholic Charities and their Saint Lucy Food Project are on the case, offering help to anyone who needs it and flexible volunteer programs to anyone who wants to serve – both regardless of beliefs.  Today’s guest, Vince Cannava, is the Program Director and Food Source Developer at Saint Lucy.  Vince is here to share his experiences distributing food to 53 parishes across the Diocese and how you can join in on your own terms and help your neighbors in need.