George Ferrick, FOLA’s First Paid Executive Director

Mary: How did you become the first paid FOLA Executive Director?

George: I found out about Friends Outside from Alice Callahan, a nun who became an Episcopal Priest and was the founder of Casas de las Familias.  She told me about the job opening at FOLA. I had just gotten a master’s degree in Family Therapy and was eager to begin working with families.  My job led to a wonderful experience with the organization.  

Mary: What was FOLA like during those early days?  

George: At the time, Mrs. Dowds had “Wives Club” meetings (for the wives and children of incarcerated individuals) at her home in San Marino.  During this time volunteers visited incarcerated women in the county jail to offer them support.  We also helped families plan visits to see their incarcerated loves ones.

Mary: How was FOLA funded then?

George: Churches were a major source of funding.  We had a grant through the Episcopalian Church.  We also asked community members to support us with annual donations of $18 per year.  FOLA had a strong Advisory Board, the primary purpose of which was to give credibility to our work as it was pretty radical work at that time. 

Mary: How have things changed over the years?

George: I think there is greater awareness about the criminal justice system, such as the costs of incarceration and the questionable efficacy of incarceration.  Long sentences, Three Strikes, systemic racism, equipping people for release, rehabilitation are now common topics in public discourse.

Mary: How have they stayed the same?

George: I have seen the FOLA chapter grow from an acorn to a “Mighty Oak.”  In my time, we worked in a very small office and sat across from the bathrooms in a church.  The early folks with FOLA brought a real commitment to the work.  It was inside them.  This seems to have remained the same.  But, today’s staff has to be more than just committed to the work.  I believe that new skills are needed.  

I am so glad to hear that FOLA now has many grants and many offices so they can address more people’s needs.  Overall, I am just so happy to see how the LA County Chapter has grown!

Meet our Honorary Co-Chairs for FACES 2022!

Friends Outside Los Angeles County is pleased to announce that Fred Armisen and Dorian Esters have graciously accepted our invitation to be our Honorary Co-chairs for FACES 2022, our 50th Anniversary Celebration

Born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Fred Armisen is a comedian and musician.   He was a cast member of Saturday Night Live for 11 years. He was the co-creator and co-star of Portlandia and is the bandleader and frequent drummer for the Late Night with Seth Meyers house band.   Fred can be seen in the first official music video of George Harrison’s iconic “My Sweet Lord,” in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the All Things Must Pass album.  

Fred became aware of the plight of the incarcerated and their families when a friend in Portland invited him to participate in a few classes for art programs at a prison in Oregon. He wanted to get involved with a similar effort in California and found Friends Outside Los Angeles County.

Dorian Esters is an experienced workforce development professional with more than 8 years of experience in job readiness, job placement, and career success support. As Workforce Development Program Coordinator of the Miguel Contreras Foundation (MCF), Dorian is responsible for connecting program participants with employer-sponsored union apprenticeship training opportunities. 

Before joining MCF, Dorian was a staff member and, prior to that, a client of FOLA.  He continues to support FOLA which he believes plays an integral role in the Los Angeles community for the incarcerated, formerly incarcerated and for their families.

We are very excited to see everyone in person this year for FACES 2022! Please forward the exciting news to your coworkers and families so they can subscribe to our newsletter for the most up-to-date information on our 50th Year Celebration!

Mary Interviews Curtis Dowds, Our Founder’s Son

Mary: Tell us a little about yourself and your mother.

Curtis: I am my mother’s oldest child.  My mom was born in 1918 in Arkansas, in the Mississippi Delta.  At the age of eight, driven mostly by drought-induced crop failures, mom and her parents moved to Alhambra, CA, just as the Depression hit. My mom grew up very poor but did so in a family deeply committed to education.   With incredible focus, the family put together the resources for a full college education for my mom and her brother. 

Mom emerged from college a progressive person who always saw the potential and good in people.   In 1954, a year before the vaccine, she contracted polio, ironically like her political mentor, FDR.   She met my father at a USC/UCLA mixer.  My dad was a lawyer who became the chief counsel in the L.A. County Counselor’s Office and eventually a prominent Superior Court judge, opening many doors my mom walked through for Friends Outside.

Mary: What do you remember about your mother founding Friends Outside in Los Angeles County?  

Curtis: The daughter of Federal William P. Gray, who was on the bench in Los Angeles, was a volunteer for Friends Outside up north and arranged for the initial meeting of “prominent women” in Los Angeles with the Friends Outside Founder, Rosemary Goodenough.  The story is that Mrs. Goodenough would talk until there was one person awake.  She would declare that woman “Mrs. Friends Outside” and leave.  Apparently my mom was the last one standing and started the LA chapter in our San Marino home.  Mom would talk to anyone about the cause and call anyone she needed to move things along, not afraid to wield the implicit power of being a judge’s wife.          

Mary: It was the early 1970’s– three political leaders killed the decade before, Vietnam War, peace and love generation.  Do you think the political and social environment of the time had anything to do with it?

Curtis: Yes.  She did not aspire to be in the country club set and the time was right for social activism.  Mom never “outgrew” her childhood experiences.  She was a person of immense empathy and wanted an identity for herself apart from being a “judge’s wife.”   She was determined – she beat poverty and polio.  She had good instincts, insight, and was perceptive. She created Friends Outside LA with “good bones” and Friends Outside gave her purpose.  

Joyce Ride

Paying Tribute to Former Board President Joyce Ride

Women’s History Month – Paying Tribute to Former Board President Joyce Ride

Photographed: Joyce Ride

Image sourced from CNN

Joyce Ride was an Encino housewife when she became a board member for Friends Outside in Los Angeles County (FOLA), c1984. A self-described person who “can’t stand injustice,” Joyce visited the county woman’s jail for many years, later driving to the California Institute for Women in Fontana every weekend to visit females in state prison.  Mrs. Ride (Joyce) spent a significant amount of her own time and money to gain the release of an imprisoned woman, Gloria Killian, because she believed in her claims of innocence. Upon her release, Gloria was invited to move into Joyce’s home.   

While daughter Sally was exploring outer space and daughter Karen (“Bear”) was becoming a Presbyterian minister, Joyce became the President of our Board of Directors. A fighter for women’s equality, Joyce hired women for whatever work that needed to be done and sported a personal gift, a bracelet, from Gloria Steinem on her wrist. In 1988, Joyce hired me to work for FOLA.  A “why use 10 words when one will do” sort of person, I gradually learned a few things about Joyce, such as that she was a gas station attendant while a student at UCLA. Joyce was a popular speaker. She spoke deliberately with carefully chosen words, commanding an audience’s attention when she spoke about the injustices in the criminal justice system, such as imprisoned women being shackled during childbirth. As for me, hired without many credentials to do my job, Joyce was always there for me, quietly guiding me along with unquestioned support.  

Today, Joyce is a nonagenarian and Bear is a retired minister. Sally, who died in 2012, was honored with a postage stamp by the U.S. Postal Service in 2018. And, this month, Sally and Maya Angelou will be the first two of 20 women who will be honored over the next four years by the U.S. Mint with quarters that will be released in their honor.  

Photographed: Mary E. Hunt, Joyce Ride, and Gloria Steinem

Image sourced from

The more I got to know Joyce, the more I began to understand how she grew up to do exceptional things. Joyce refused to fall into line with stereotypes and fought without compromise for the underdog. And, four decades after I met her, it has become abundantly clear how she and her equally impressive husband, Dale, would raise two girls who would, themselves, become accomplished leaders in non-traditional fields.

Thanks for believing in me, too, Joyce.

Mary Weaver