Written by Christina Hughes Babb | Lakewood Advocate | April 1, 2022
The house of refuge on Redwood Circle in Little Forest Hills was beginning to cave. Though loved and cared for by the women of The Magdalen House — where women have sought treatment for alcoholism since 1987 — the home could no longer shoulder the formidable work and growing demand.
The nonprofit’s executive director, Lisa Kroencke, who spearheaded a capital campaign to raise funds for a new facility, says there came a point while serving as a volunteer board member when she realized people trying to recover from alcoholism are worthy of something beautiful.
“A lot of these women, including me, had felt so much shame that they thought this dilapidated building with asbestos and faulty wiring was about as good as they deserve,” she says.
“I recognized that if we were going to grow, it was not going to be in that physical space. We either had to rebuild there, or we had to find a new facility.”
They were a far cry from being able to afford it — “$20,000 in the bank, $185,000 operating budget,” Kroencke recalls. The David Crowley Foundation came through with a $600,000 grant to purchase property in the Peak’s Suburban Addition, a historic preservation district in East Dallas.
The remodel would cost another $2.8 million. But that donation kick-started something that could not be stopped, a whirlwind three years of further fundraising, navigating code and Landmark Commission rules, weathering storms (a literal tornado and a pandemic) and designing and constructing a new Magdalen House.
One year ago, Maggie’s relocated to a studs-out-remodeled 12,000-square-foot historic mansion. The place brightens up the entire 4500 block of Gaston Avenue. It allows The Magdalen House to treat 20, rather than 14, inpatients at a time and accommodate workspaces for 22 full- and part-time staffers. The size of family and community meeting rooms have doubled.
Today, it’s a home worthy of its occupants.
THE LONELIEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD
Swinging open the front door (a replica of the home’s original, framed-by-leaded-glass windows), Kroencke greets guests with an effervescent grin, a touch on the shoulder and welcoming words. One might mistake her for a TV news anchor, her vibes merging mom-next-door with local celebrity.
After a career in marketing, and memberships on several nonprofit boards, Kroencke now serves as The Magdalen House’s executive director.
Her rap sheet is as impressive as her resume.
Without discomfort, she discusses days spent in jail, detox centers and rehabilitation programs. It started in her late 30s.
“I was 36-37 when I noticed that my drinking had changed. And it wasn’t even about the amount, really, but the importance.”
On the outside, Kroencke’s life was quintessential — first in her family to graduate from a university, traveled the world as a flight attendant, landed a dream job at The Richards Group where she met her husband, Dave Kroencke. They raised four sons.
She tried to control her problem and hide it as long as she could. That became increasingly difficult.
“It’s the loneliest illness in the entire world, because you have this secret, and you have to constantly pretend — to yourself and everyone — that everything is OK,” she says.