“I have full respect to all who is there. All I see is respect and knowledge which is shared every minute. You are a unique family who gives every day. I do take note of the knowledge I have received…. Family: a name with a big meaning. People use it very loosely. As for me, I use it in my heart. Not too many people I call family. I can call 70×7 family.”
A Changes Graduate
Full Ministry Update:
70×7 Life Recovery-Grand Rapids Program Center, started the first quarter of 2021 full of hope and the knowledge that God is in control. Because of the ongoing situation due to COVID 19, we continue to keep all recommended safety protocols. We have been blessed to be able remain open since June 2020 to meet clients and host programs. Change classes are again offered at our office but with a smaller participant cap and a modified Serving Together program. New Day Staffing has been working to grow employment partners. Stronger Together Family Support Group and Take Charge Life Skills and Support group for women have been meeting via Zoom or outdoors as weather permitted. Cards for Prisoners, a pen-pal letter writing program for inmates has been growing; Paula Creswell who oversees this program will be taking on more of the responsibility of engaging with area churches and the Restorative Hope program. Mentor matches are again being made in person; the need for Christian mentors for our participants is ongoing!
Although client contacts and new intakes have been lower than a non-pandemic year, we are seeing an uptick in participants. Those coming to Change class have been especially committed and sharing word-of-mouth referrals to others. Housing inquiries continue to be high; we launched our Housing Initiative last year; this quarter we have added another 16 rooms through a private landlord. We are in discussions with another group that has potential to drastically grow this program. We are perpetually striving to grow our programs and improve our services; we consistently challenge ourselves to seek new ways to do this.
Ben Rosa, Grand Rapids Program Center Executive Director, announced his plans to retire; his last day was March 18, 2021. Ben did amazing work during his tenure at 70×7 and lead with passion, sensitivity and vision. We are so grateful for all he accomplished! Antwan Brown has now taken over as the Director of the Grand Rapids Program Center. He brings exciting skills, experience and contacts along with passion for this population. We are excited for the future at 70×7!
Outreach and Capacity Building
70×7 has been reaching out to new community partners and is excited about possible program opportunities moving forward. We have been working with Kent County Correctional Facility (KCCF) to initiate a program to begin working with inmates and start intakes before they are released. Experience shows the more exposure we have while a person is incarcerated, the more likely they will contact us upon release. We have also been in discussions with Alternative Directions to lead a program for women which they would like to launch. Set Free Ministries met with 70×7 to share information about their program; we will work to refer appropriate clients to each other.
Some positive stories and notes to date in 2021:
- Take Charge and Stronger Together have both grown this past year by offering teleconferencing options. A family member joined a Stronger Together meeting virtually from another state; she had a loved one paroling to our community in Michigan. At another Stronger Together meeting, a parole agent joined, answer questions, and clarified misconceptions; this was particularly helpful for two newer participants who have loved ones coming home soon. Anxiety and misconceptions were put to rest and they felt more prepared and at ease to help their loved ones’ transition home.
- We were blessed by Raybrook Manor at Christmas time when residents provided 70 gift boxes with hygiene products and a small gift for our clients. The residents were blessed to be able to give; our clients were blessed by the thoughtful gift. At Easter, Raybrook again reached out to 70×7 and provide gift bags with pens, paper and candies.
- A Changes graduate who recently got a job through New Day Staffing sent us this note:“I have full respect to all who is there. All I see is respect and knowledge which is shared every minute. You are a unique family who gives every day. I do take note of the knowledge I have received…. Family: a name with a big meaning. People use it very loosely. As for me, I use it in my heart. Not too many people I call family. I can call 70×7 family.”
- An employer partner with New Day Staffing sent us this email after promoting two of our program graduates:“I want to take this time to congratulate you for your effort with these guys. [They are] excellent in attendance, hard workers, and now we are promoting P. and D. I am very happy with all this happening. Their attendance, attitude and discipline allowed them to become better [and receive a well-deserved raise.] Congratulations on your effort in preparing these guys for a new future!”
- We frequently have clients tell us how much 70×7 and our programs mean to them. We have been told “you really care and treat me like a person and not a case.” Graduates of our Changes class come back to encourage other Cohorts and to enjoy being in a safe place of encouragement. Occasionally, we have clients who step backwards; frequently when they realize what they have done, they come back to us because they know it’s still a safe place here, we understand, and we will help them take the steps, however difficult, they need to go forward in a positive manner.
Submitted by Cheryl Wyma
Diaconal Ministry Report