Larissa will be the first one to tell you she had made some bad choices. After graduating from City High in Iowa City in 1996, Larissa found herself in prison from 2004 to 2006. Upon her release, she started on a new path, earning a degree in criminal justice at Kaplan University in 2008, followed by jobs at the Willis Dady Emergency Shelter and AmeriCorps, and volunteer work at the Catholic Worker House. When the CWH lost their house manager, she applied, and took over the role in September 2009.
Because of her background, she’s able to connect with and help people that are where she was – just out of prison, facing eviction, homeless, or in a similar hardship situation. Her work at CWH is truly an inspiration, and her willingness to be open and authentic about her past and use her experience to engage with clients has done more good than anyone will ever know.
“Being able to show compassion and listen with empathy – that’s huge for me and for them,” says Larissa. “My goal is to help them find a way out and see that the current situation is not the end – that even prison can be just a step to making life better, not the end of the road.”
She loves being able to help people of all religious beliefs and backgrounds. Her biggest reward is when a client is able to go home. Larissa spends her days leading a staff of three, coordinating numerous volunteers, working with current, new, and past clients to make sure their needs are met, writing grants, and doing presentations at churches to share the CWH mission.