Gallagher, 29, became pregnant with her first child, Malachi, when she was 19 years old. It was then in 2003 that she became involved as a participant with Prevent Child Abuse Athens. She had her second child, Caleb, three years later. Healthy Families, a program of PCAA, assisted Gallagher for about four years, giving her support and information about skill building and parenting.
PCAA is an umbrella organization consisting of free programs to assist families. The programs are: Healthy Families, which deals with home visiting; First Steps, involving hospital visits to new mothers; and Parenting, free to the community.
Having children at a young age did not stop Gallagher from living her life. She attended Athens Technical College on and off for a few years, until she decided to pursue different endeavors. In 2009, PCAA contacted her about being a volunteer with the First Steps program. In 2012, she was hired under a research grant to help family support workers to promote retention. Currently, she is a family support worker to moms, providing a service that was once given to her.
As a family support worker, Gallagher sets up weekly visits with participants despite their hectic schedules. Her caseload maximum is 15 people, and she is close to reaching her limit. She enjoys sharing her past experiences and supporting other moms trying to reach their own goals.
“The best things about working with moms and families as a support worker is providing a listening ear, and allowing them to share what they know as the expert on their child or children,” said Gallagher.
A participant when she had her first child, Gallagher believes that this gives her an upper hand and better insight when working with families. She is able to connect with them, and the mothers in particular, because she was once in their shoes. She uses her life experiences to show fellow mothers that they can continue on with life and enjoy it no matter what the circumstances may be.
“As a graduate of the program, she can connect with other moms and help them to see the benefit of participating,” said Mary Hood, executive director of PCAA.
Being involved in the community and having polished interpersonal skills are vital for the area that Gallagher works in. She has a determined spirit, ambitious goals and a wonderful personality. She enjoys talking with people and utilizing her resources when working with different families. Gallagher brings joy and warmth to conversations, making anyone feel relaxed and like an old friend.
“She is very relatable and puts people at ease quickly,” said co-worker, Grace Arthur. “She has great ideas and is very enthusiastic. Kirrena's strengths are in the areas of community resources and resource building.”
Gallagher loves community and advocating for others. She enjoys seeing change over time, empowering people and giving them a voice. Volunteering at food distributions, organizing events and challenging and advocating for others are just a few of her many great qualities.
Engaging in a number of community efforts to give back, she strives to see the biggest change and a greater difference. As a parent, Gallagher delights in her time and involvement with her children. The changes she loves and hopes to make in the community directly affect her own kids.
“I think they are the reason I want to support the change in this community,” Gallagher sad. “They have to grow up in it. I might as well get it started now so they can take over and be the leaders for tomorrow.”