Some positive stories and notes this quarter of 2022:
From Scott Alsgaard, our Employment Services Director:
A. was referred to the GR office from OS and is one of the best participants I have ever worked with. When he started with us, he had huge crazy hair and a big bushy beard. He had a really positive affect on everyone he had contact with – staff and participants (plus the Plant Manager at Helix Steel would like to adopt him!) When he showed up to meet with me to complete the hiring paperwork, I did not know who he was. He had shaved his head and shaved his beard. When I asked him about the change he said, “I’m going to work I need to make a good impression.” I reached out today to Helix to see how he was doing and this is part of the response I received:
“A. is doing great. He was named by his peers here Employee of the quarter for Q1.”
This letter was sent to Paula Creswell, Program Director – Cards for Prisoners & Restorative Hope:
“I would like to take this time to thank you for the many cards you have sent me throughout my prison term. Hope y’all keep doing what y’all all doing for all prisoners. Oh yeah, I have a roommate who just ‘touch down.’ He needs your God’s Love too. It’s his first time in prison. Please pray for him, ok. With God’s Love, Brother A.”
We received many positive notes from Kent County jail inmates who participated in the Moms Not Forgotten event including these:
“I want to make a change and break the cycle but don’t know how. But today showed me that there are people who care and can help. Pray for guidance on how to break the cycle so my son will not do as I have done.”
“Before I came out to the event my life was shadowed by despair and depression. Today that cloud was lifted and I feel joy – hope for my life. Pray that I may come to peace with my prison sentence and separation from my family.”
“It opened my eyes to new beginnings. I enjoyed the event very much and look forward to joining the re-entry program. Life as a criminal isn’t a life I want to live. I have faith in the Lord for He has saved me. I am my own enemy. I used to look for trouble wherever I could find it but trouble is not a life I want to live anymore. I ask you to help me pray for healing where I’m hurt.”
In addition to our regular programing, 70×7 Life Recovery-Grand Rapids Program Center stayed busy throughout the second quarter with Reaching In.
We began planning a modified Take Charge program for the KCCF called Women of Worth (start date was delayed until later in the summer due to Covid outbreaks in the jail). Pathways to Purpose has also been launched at Ottawa County jail.
After a two-year shutdown due to Covid, we relaunched our Reentry Networking Lunches in May 2022. These lunches are held monthly; participants were excited to come and meetings have been growing in attendance each month.
In June we also hosted our annual Stronger Together Family Support Group Picnic. Grand Rapids and Holland groups combined for this event on a very hot day; it was a great connecting point. Restorative Hope and the Cards for Prisoners, a pen-pal letter writing program for inmates, has been blessed with new church partners and volunteers. We are perpetually striving to grow our programs and improve our services; we consistently challenge ourselves to seek new ways to do this.
Outreach and Capacity Building
In April, we provided 25 students from Grace Christian University’s social work program the opportunity to come in and learn more about our work with returning citizens in the community. Also in April, we participated in the Affordable Housing Summit at Tabernacle Community Church where church leaders discussed with 70×7 and other agencies the housing needs in this area as well as realistic and alternative ways to work on this issue. On May 13, 2022, we participated in the Kent County Job Fair at the Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center where 30 employers and agencies were in attendance to help and hire returning citizens. The next day, May 14, 70×7, 70×7 along with Prison Fellowship and Reach the Forgotten, went into KCCF and held “Moms Not Forgotten,” an event for the mothers in jail who have limited opportunity to connect with their children, which can be especially difficult at Mothers’ Day. We came with special music, an inspirational speaker, and treats; the women were then given a special book to write a dedicated note to their children. Recording devises were also available for moms to record a special message which was then inserted into donated Build-A-Bears and sent to their children. It was a very well received and appreciated day; a similar event will be held for fathers in the fall.
Submitted by Cheryl Wyma
Diaconal Ministry Report