Our History with Athena House and Hope Village

– Meet Cindy and Bill Gallaher
Bill and Cindy Gallaher

Athena House was a vaguely familiar name and program to us when we first read about its impending closure and sale in July of 2022. What caught our attention was the imminent displacement and need for housing for the 40 vulnerable women who were in various points of their recovery journey. Our first thought was to try to purchase the three acres and hoped for a quick cosmetic upgrade (if needed) and turnaround so that women and children could continue living there. Since we were on vacation when we became aware of the urgent situation, we called upon an employee and friend to contact the Realtor representing the sale. We agreed on a price and entered a contract. Upon our return, we were able to visit the property and quickly realized this was far more extensive than a cosmetic fix.

We may have been tempted to walk away at that point had we had not met Brooke Igleheart-Ross and Sylvie De La Cruz. Both women are alumnae of the Athena House program: Brooke was the agent representing the sale, and Sylvie the longtime program director of the Athena House program. In the space of a couple of hours over lunch, we received an unexpected education about both the causes of addiction and the transformational role the Athena House program has played for hundreds of women by facilitating their recovery and rebuilding their lives. Both Sylvie and Brooke shared their personal stories of recovery – it was their honesty and courage that made such an emotional impact on us.

Since then, we have met many other alumni each with their unique history of trauma, have demonstrated incredible courage, determination, and perseverance on their journey out of addiction and into productive and healthy lives. Our expertise and our experience are in building. Building and renovating was the way we could make a significant positive contribution to support the continuation of this very successful program. What we had imagined might be a few quick cosmetic upgrades has turned into a two-year construction project that has involved the remodeling of six structures, the demolition and new construction of two homes, and the creation of the campus you now see. Our commitment to Buckelew Programs, now the umbrella organization under which Athena House and Hope Village operate, is to lease the campus to them indefinitely (if it remains in its current use) for $1 per year. We are sure our investment will be returned many times over in saved and transformed lives.

We started this journey with long-held prejudices and ignorance about substance abuse and the people in its grip. We find ourselves now with the highest admiration and respect for those individuals who break that cycle – both for themselves and by helping others. It is a privilege to be a small part of helping that happen.