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WASHINGTON — The following guests will be seated in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) box in the House gallery during President Obama’s last State of the Union address tomorrow night.

Hero in the Balcony

Logan Barritt, Milton, WI. Inspired by a Veterans Day lesson, four-year-old Logan Barritt asked his mother if he could use change from his piggy bank to send care packages to servicemembers stationed overseas during Christmastime. “I want to give it to the soldiers,” he told his mother. All told, starting with the $1.90 Logan contributed, more than $1,300 was raised from around the community for the effort. In December, representatives of the Janesville U.S. Army recruiting station and local veterans’ service organizations surprised Logan with a thank-you ceremony at his preschool and a letter of appreciation from his congressman, Speaker Ryan. Logan will be joined in the gallery by his parents, Nick and Becky.

“Kids can be heroes too,” Speaker Ryan said. “Logan reminded us that a little pocket change goes a long way, especially when it comes to giving back to the men and women who give everything for us. I look forward to welcoming the Barritt family to the Capitol.”

Poverty Fighters

Speaker Ryan’s guests include front line poverty fighters from Wisconsin’s First District and around the country:

Rev. Melvin Hargrove, President of Racine Unified School District, Racine, WI. A native of Racine, Hargrove is also the Founder and Senior Pastor of Zoe Outreach Ministries, where he has created programs to combat poverty and drug addiction.

Bishop Shirley Holloway, Founder, House of Help City of Hope, Washington, DC. Bishop Holloway gave up a successful career with the U.S. Postal Service to found a non-profit organization that has helped more than 40,000 people dealing with addiction and homelessness. Speaker Ryan highlighted her work in a TedxPennsylvaniaAvenue talk last June.

Pastor Omar Jahwar, Founder, Vision Regeneration, Dallas, TX. The first gang specialist hired in Texas state prisons, Jahwar leads an organization that provides gang prevention, counseling, and mentoring services to 17 Dallas public schools.

Antong Lucky, Founder, We Make Real Music, Inc., Dallas, TX. A former leader of the Bloods gang in Dallas, Lucky created a program while still in prison to help young people get out of gangs. After his release in 2000, he joined Vision Regeneration to help end gang violence in Dallas, and has now launched a recording studio to combat the glamorization of violence in music.  

Robert Woodson, Founder and President, Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, Washington DC. Widely considered to be the “godfather” of the movement to empower neighborhood-based organizations, Woodson led Speaker Ryan on a “listening and learning” tour with faith-based neighborhood healers around the country.

Joanna Wynn, Founder, Walkin’ In My Shoes, Inc. Kenosha, WI. In 2004, Joanna Wynn was jobless and homeless until, after assistance from Speaker Ryan’s office, she began to receive disability benefits. Today, she leads a non-profit organization dedicated to helping young people break the cycle of poverty.

“The answer to poverty isn’t the money in Washington,” Speaker Ryan said. “The answer to poverty is entrepreneurs and innovators like these who are actually making a difference, community by community.”

Little Sisters of the Poor

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an order of Catholic nuns who have been serving the elderly poor since their founding over 175 years ago. The Sisters have asked the Supreme Court for protection from the Affordable Care Act's HHS mandate through which the government is forcing them to change their healthcare plans to offer drugs that violate their religious beliefs and threatening them with $70 million in fines per year. The Court will likely hear their case in March. A bipartisan group of 206 Members—including Speaker Ryan—filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of their case. Pope Francis highlighted the organization’s work with a surprise visit to their residence in Washington last September. 

Sister Loraine Marie Maguire, the organization’s Mother Provincial, and Sister Constance Veit will represent the Little Sisters of the Poor in the Speaker’s box.

“All we ask is that our rights not be taken away,” Sister Loraine said in a recent release. “The government exempts large corporations, small businesses, and other religious ministries from what they are imposing on us – we just want to keep serving the elderly poor as we have always done for 175 years.”

“For us, this has nothing to do with politics,” Sister Constance said in an interview. “We just want to take care of the elderly poor without being forced to violate the faith that animates our work.”

“The Little Sisters of the Poor care for the most vulnerable among us, and they should be free to practice their faith without the threat of government interference or intimidation,” Speaker Ryan said. “The Sisters’ stand in defense of religious liberty – one of our most fundamental rights – is nothing short of courageous, and it’s my privilege to support their cause.”