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“Successful reentry is an inside job – beginning not only inside prison but inside a
person’s heart.”

Gatekeepers was created entirely for inmates and returning citizens by someone who
knows what it is like to re-enter society after incarceration. The Business of Living model
began as a spark of inspiration when Bill Gaertner was incarcerated in a Maryland
facility serving an eight-year sentence for domestic violence. Bill quickly learned that
getting through the prison experience required him to take a hard look at himself and
that he could no longer continue to do things as he had in the past. From this place of
self-examination and contemplation, Bill determined that he was quite possibly
approaching his last chance to make a real difference in the lives of others. He realized
that there were few, if any, organized programs to help people to successfully reenter
society after incarceration and this was his opportunity to make good and give back. Bill
spent several years planning the Business of Living program, bouncing ideas off trusted
friends he met in prison creating an innovative, simple, and practical life planning tool to
help others as they transition from prison and into a productive life.

Upon his release in 2013, Bill set to the task of getting to know the Hagerstown
community and putting his dream into action. Bill knocked on many doors trying to pitch
his idea to local organizations. Only one organization, Valor Ministries, saw the potential
and invited Bill to work out of their office to help him launch the program in Washington
County. Since then, Gatekeepers has helped hundreds of local men and women
prepare their personal re-entry plan using the Business of Living Workbook. Currently,
Gatekeepers presents its program in the County Detention Center and all State facilities
within Washington County, Maryland, going inside the walls so that incarcerated
individuals can begin planning for release ahead of time. Gatekeepers has been
recognized by the State of Maryland as a leader in reentry services.

Gatekeepers began expanding into the national arena in 2022 by digitizing the Business
of Living Workbook. The program is currently available on tablets in prisons nationwide
helping over
4,000 inmates map out their reentry plan thus far. In 2021, Bill received the
National Prison Ministry Award presented by the St. Dismas Society for the work he has
done with returning inmates within the state of Maryland.

By attending to his own Business of Living, the dream and vision of one incarcerated
man has helped thousands re-enter life.


Bill serves as a board member of several organizations and initiatives that share a similar mission. Those include: Lasting Change, Horizon Goodwill Industries, the Street Reentry Board, the Justice Reinvestment Advisory Board. Additionally, Bill has been brought on to serve on the Maryland Equitable Justice Collaborative, created by the State Attorney General Anthony Brown and the Maryland Public Defender Natasha Dartigue.

Because of his passion to help ex-offenders get their lives back on track, Bill received the Hagerstown Sunrise Rotary Club’s annual Vocational Service Award in 2018. Watch his interview on WDVM for more details.

He was also recently awarded Horizon Goodwill’s Massey H. Roe Memorial Award winner for 2018. This award was established to honor an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to building bridges between groups in order to foster cooperation or collaboration and thereby improve the quality of life for the citizens of their community.

In 2021 Bill was awarded the St. Dismas Award. The presentation occurred on September 30th at 12:15 pm. A Mass was held at the Baltimore Basilica on 409 Cathedral St.

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