People: Georgia Mjartan, Executive Director, Our House
Breaking the Cycle
By Angela E. Thomas
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JANET WARLICK
Georgia Mjartan grew up just a short distance from the community she serves. Her parents, Peter and Karen Miller, married 45 years, have had eight careers between them and encouraged her to follow her passion. “My parents are very socially minded, and they raised me to be the same,” she said, proudly.
Mjartan at one time wanted to be a neonatologist — “I felt that if I could impact life at the earliest moment, I could have the biggest impact” — later a cultural anthropologist, then while studying at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR), she discovered policy work.
She earned bachelor’s degrees from UALR, a master’s from the University of Ulster and has completed postgraduate study at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Mjartan serves on a number of boards and was on the Our House board when she was approached with the idea of becoming director.
Our House provides shelter, education, job training and youth programs for more than 1,000 people annually. Since Mjartan became executive director eight years ago, the nonprofit has tripled its operating income and in-kind giving; doubled the number of people it serves; and conducted two successful capital campaigns. In July, they broke ground on a 20,000-square-foot facility to house a children’s and youth programs.
“I am most proud of our children’s program.When I started we had a daycare center used by our residents during the workday. Now we have a program that serves as a pipeline for thousands of children, a program that leads to success in school, college careers and instills strong values for parenthood. We are permanently breaking the cycle of homelessness,” Mjartan said.
What is your comfort item?
“One of my husband Dominik’s cotton shirts” — she’s had it since they first became a couple 15 years ago. “My sweet husband is my rock, my anchor and advisor. I wear [his shirt] when he travels or whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed.”
What do you do in your spare time?
“I love soccer. We play on multiple teams — right now, I’m on two — and I’m usually the only girl. I’m a defender.”
What is something about you that others would find quirky?
“There’s a part of me, deep inside, that thinks I’m a big scary dude. My husband sometimes reminds me that I’m not. I was once told by a former resident, who is 6’5” or 6’6”, a big guy, that he was scared of me.
What’s your favorite movie?
Laughing, Mjartan said, “The Blind Side.”
What would 33-year-old Georgia say to 21-year-old Georgia if given the opportunity?
“Georgia, God made you this way for a reason. Be comfortable in using what He has given you, and use it wisely.”