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Rising Stars: Meet Christina Hake

Today we’d like to introduce you to Christina Hake.

Hi Christina, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My business partner and long-time friend Emily Boullear and I started Free Thought last summer during the height of the pandemic. Emily was working for a criminal defense attorney at the time and frequently spoke to clients that were being detained while awaiting trial.

One commonly re-occurring topic of conversation was that of the book selection provided at detention centers and how small and/or undesirable the book selection was. This spurred the idea of creating some sort of initiative to get more books and books of better quality to those who are currently incarcerated. We started with approaching the Jackson County Detention Center in Kansas City, Missouri, sending an email to the directors of the facility and setting up a meeting with them to discuss our intentions. They were immediately on board and really supportive and receptive of our ideas. We decided to go the full proper legal route and establish ourselves as non-profit organization and started renting an office space at Inner Space on 27th and Troost, and everything has rather naturally unfolded from there. As resources have allowed, we have expanded to currently donating to 14 different facilities, and we hope to expand outreach much further as time and resources allow.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has been rather smooth so far, of course there have been some struggles along the way- mostly resource struggles- but the community has been really supportive and generous thus far, and we truly appreciate everyone who has contributed in any way to our initiative.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Along with school and the non-profit, I work as a server at Aixois Bistro, a French restaurant in Brookside. I’ve worked there for about five years now, and I really love the family that owns the restaurant, as well as my co-workers, so it makes the service industry a bit more sufferable. I’m super into art and photography and kind of nerd out on that stuff in my free time as well as traveling as much as possible, especially outside of the U.S.

Emily works as the Assistant Coordinator for the Lansing Correctional Program at Donnelly College. She has a Master’s in Homeland Security from Tulane and is currently pursuing her second master’s at Harvard in Psychology. She hopes to focus her studies on the mechanisms of violent crime and construct methods of violence mitigation in the future.

Once we developed the idea for our project, we started doing research into education programs in prisons and how they affect recidivism rates- there’s not a lot of data on this because unfortunately there aren’t many programs in place, but- for example those who completed at degree via the Bard Prison Initiative (which provides high school diploma and college baccalaureate programs to those incarcerated in federal prisons) had recidivism rates as low as 4% rather than the usual 40-70% depending on the state. We also discovered the term “bibliotherapy”, a theory which involves the ability of books to ease distress and emotional challenges that are clearly provided in an environment such as jail or prison. Essentially, our wish is that those who are incarcerated can be looked upon and treated with equality and care as any and every human should be. With the right support and tools from their community, those who are incarcerated can work on healing and building a better future for themselves and others as well.

What makes you happy?
Doing what I can and showing up for others even in the smallest ways makes me feel the most. As we’re all more than aware, the world can be quite a difficult place to navigate sometimes, and we all need support and love from each other and the community to thrive and be the best versions of ourselves. Outside of that, I like aimless walking and observing different flavors of life, hanging out with my friends and fam, seeing new things via traveling outside of KC, and escaping reality via books.

Emily- It makes me happy to help other living things through direct action, as opposed to actions or intentions based in a passing fad in philanthropy. I like to put food in the hands of a hungry person, socialize kittens so they can be adopted, give rescue animals a loving home, etc. Helping others (for real) makes me happiest.

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1 Comment

  1. Scott Gardner

    August 3, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    In the last year I’ve gotten the extreme honor to get to know both of these ladies. Emily a little more than Christina but I will say in my experience in knowing them for the short time I have, they are two of the most wonderful people I think I’ve ever met. If you ever wanted to see wholehearted goodness look at these two. They are amazing to witness in life. They truly care about every soul that crosses their path and some that don’t. If there’s a cause in Kansas City that should be donated to and nurtured to succeed I would have to say freethought would be at the top of the list. At least mine anyway. Keep up the good work ladies! You have a fire about you! And your determination is unmatched! Take care of each other. You’re both always in my prayers.

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