Supporting Families Touched by Murder

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After Carolyn Priester’s son, Lee Randolph Priester, was killed July 28, 2007, she dealt with her grief in part by creating Conquerors, a network for families impacted by homicide.

A longtime member of Oakdale Park Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., Priester hosts the group each month at the church.

Conquerors takes its name from Romans 8:37: “In all things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

The organization provides financial assistance for burial costs when an unexpected death affects a family without the means to cover those expenses. Since its inception in 2008, Conquerors has helped more than 100 people through referrals from the Grand Rapids Police Department or one of several social service agencies in the area.

It has seen steady growth in the number of families served, even though the rate of homicides in Grand Rapids has been cut in half since 2007.

Priester takes joy in providing support but laments every time the group grows, since each new family represents another senseless death. “It is a beautiful thing to support,” she says, “but also to help with unexpected loss.”

Some of the eight to 10 regular attendees have been with the group since day one. “I get as much as the people who come,” said Priester, “It helps me not to dwell on my own pain.”

In particular, Priester is concerned for unsolved cases, such as her son’s. She has been glad to see justice served for several of the families who have seen their loved ones’ killers convicted.

Priester continues this ministry in her retirement, while also serving as a deacon for Oakdale Park. She hopes one day to turn Conquerors over to the church as a self-sustaining ministry.

About the Author

Noah Kruis is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids North.

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