When Kristina Fry of the Wenatchee YWCA rose to speak in front of a crowd of nearly 500 people at the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce banquet recently, her story made quite an impression. There was hardly a dry eye in the joint.
The diminutive Fry described in detail the challenges has overcome with the help of the staff at the YWCA. She talked about substance abuse issues that led to two prison sentences, numerous jail sentences and more than two dozen stints in recovery. It was a history of personal failure after personal failure over a couple of decades.
She talked about how badly she felt about the many local services she had used and how many bridges she had burned with agencies that kept giving her chances. She doesn't begrudge fact that no one but the YWCA was willing to give her another chance the last time around.
The folks at the YWCA stepped forward and provided more than a place to sleep and food. They wrapped her in support and gave Fry an opportunity to get back into the working world and build her confidence.
She's been clean and sober for 22 months, has been promoted to a management role at Cafe AZ's and has been dutifully paying off court and jail costs that go back nearly 20 years. Fry is living on her own and giving back to the community by doing some volunteering. She's an enthusiastic fundraiser for the YWCA and also shares her story with other women who are struggling to turn the corner in their lives. Fry, who is a delightful, outgoing, energetic and driven individual, is one of the many success stories of the YWCA.
After the event, Fry admitted she was extremely stressed out about telling her story in public but decided that the community needed to hear it. "I told myself this is for the greater good and that people (in the community) need to know that what they're doing is paying off," Fry said.
During her speech to the chamber, some thoughtful person in the crowd passed around a bag for contributions to help Fry pay off the four court-related bills she still owes. It was stuffed with cash. Fry was so overwhelmed by the generosity that she literally fell to her knees. She paid three bills off and plans to take a photo off the receipts and have the chamber post them on her web site. Fry wants people to know that she's grateful and has followed through.
Fry said she felt like she was walking on air after discharging those debts. It has allowed her to start looking to the future. She has much to offer to this community.
How fitting it was that the chamber honored the YWCA as the nonprofit of the year for 2013. Having Fry tell her story was the perfect way to honor the agency and its work.
When people give contributions to local charities, they most often don't see the impact. In this case, we got to see the payoff and it reminds of the struggles that people go through in our communities and of the power of our generosity and compassion.
Fry's talk was an inspiration and truly unforgettable. If you'd like to see my interview with Fry and YWCA Executive Director Jenny Pratt, click on the link below.