For more than 15 years, Criminal Justice Chaplaincy has worked with Calvin Christian Reformed Church and other churches in Grand Rapids, Mich., to mentor women recently released from prison. The women receive support to reintegrate into life after prison through the Take Charge program.
Mentor training took place during two weeks in July. Following training, volunteers attend the Take Charge meetings and work with women who have been referred by probation officers, homeless shelters, as well as domestic violence support organizations.
“These women come uncertain, isolated, and sometimes angry. Over time we see them let their guard down and trust again,” said Take Charge program manager Sarah Rhein.
During their meetings, the women are able to meet with other women, create friendships, and gain peer support. They cover topics such as finances, parenting, and nutrition. As the women attend groups or receive mentoring, they can also become reintegrated with a church community. The congregation is equipped to understand, support, and keep new members accountable after serving prison sentences.
“Role models are greatly needed [for these women],” said CJC mentor coordinator Laurie Morren.
In addition to Calvin CRC, the chaplaincy also partners closely with other churches like Oakdale CRC as well as the Christmas Store. Calvin CRC's family assistance center helps support women with their needs as they restart their lives.
“Many of the speakers for the Take Charge group share how God has been instrumental in the transformation they’ve experienced in their live,” Rhein said. “We see participants strengthening their connection to Jesus, reestablishing a relationship with God, or becoming more open to beginning one.”