by Latavia Taylor and Erin McAllister
“Just take a breath”—four simple words spoken by the executive director that led a man consumed by fear and doubt to a life changing recovery. After an interview with Daniel Farris, a former Gemeinschaft Home resident who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, it was clear that the impact of the program retained more than just a 90-day expiration and, instead, catapulted a lost individual into a new life.
At his initial arrival at Gemeinschaft Home last summer, Farris expected nothing more than stale phrases of encouragement and superficial relationships with the staff and residents, but he discovered something very different. He discovered a welcoming and non-judgmental space for residents. Farris explains that “some people need someone to save them from themselves,” and he credits the Gemeinschaft Home staff for giving him the support he needed at just the right moment.
Farris feels much gratitude for his relationship with the Gemeinschaft Home staff during his residency, saying, “The fact that the staff members are the people they are...that is a huge part of why this particular facility works the way it does.” He adds, “I mean you could throw grant money around and set up stuff like this all day long, but if you don’t have the right people and the right motives pushing the agenda, this doesn’t work.”
He explained that with the guidance of people like Sharon (Ringgold), Richi (Yowell), and Jumar (Peterson), residents gain a fighting chance to alter their decision-making toward positive rather than negative outcomes and to lay the proper foundation to permanently separate themselves from the harmful habits and patterns of their lives prior to incarceration.
After completing the 90-day program, Farris moved to Charlottesville and works as a groundskeeper for a local dance company. There is a clear sense of expectancy radiating from the former resident as he continues to work toward a future that includes stable employment and positive relationships with his family and friends.
While he does not know exactly what the future may bring, he is sure of one thing: “If I didn’t have this [Gemeinschaft Home], I probably would have come back home and linked up with the same people I was with before., and who knows where I would be?” His gratitude and recognition of the significant role Gemeinschaft Home has played in his present circumstances demonstrates the strength of the program and the difference that it can make in many people’s lives. Gemeinschaft Home is a place that its residents will never forget.