In Character: Karen Stagg

CONSIDERING, she left a successful career in health care operations seven years ago to lead Connections for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to aiding women who are re-entering society after spending time in prison or other facilities. “I wanted to live my life more intentionally to be more deliberate with how I spent my time.”

CONSIDERING, her foray into the world of incarcerated women was not a natural one. She had no experience with prison ministry or knowledge of the necessary steps that it takes for such women to return to living productive and healthy lives in the community. After a suggestion from her pastor and friend, she decided to learn. “I thought, I might not have a lot to offer, but I’ll do what I can. Today, I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

CONSIDERING, her role in Connections for Life puts her face-to-face with some women she finds amazing. “Each one of them is unique. We spend time with them and talk about their goals. We want them to be successful long-term.” The organization provides housing, clothing, food, job placement assistance, financial management assistance and access to medical care.

CONSIDERING, she continues to encourage the women in her care, especially when the going is difficult. “Much is required of them through this year-long program. Our expectations are high, and it’s hard work. But we want to help them ease back into the community to be tax-paying citizens.”

CONSIDERING, she believes in the importance of strong women in our society. Her father passed away when she was young, and she and her sister were raised by their mother—a women she credits with imbuing her with determination and verve. “I want women to be strong and independent. They need to be confident in themselves without becoming dependent on others.”

CONSIDERING, she has been married to Brian for nine years and has three grown stepchildren and two grandchildren. “Brian has been incredibly supportive of my work with this organization. I couldn’t do it without him.”

CONSIDERING, no task is too insignificant for her to perform on the job. She even drives an oversized moving truck once a week around the community to collect furniture donations for the organization’s thrift store.

CONSIDERING, she has dreams for the organization to grow. She envisions Connections for Life owning an apartment complex, not only for the women in the program but also as low-income housing for graduates of the program. “It has forever changed the way that I look at my community. Because I have the opportunity to be engaged and hands-on, I see the true needs of our community in the flesh. It gives me a whole new perspective.”

CONSIDERING, she is a champion for women. “I always say, When a woman is ready to change her life, you better get out of the way.'”