FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Rescue Mission often helps men who have recently been to prison get reacquainted with the community. This year, they have taken a different approach to that.
Volunteering has always been a major component of the Rescue Mission’s Phase reentry program for men coming out of incarceration. In an effort to remove the barrier of a desk between them and the men they help, the organization decided to change things up by getting them involved as a group in the community.
The men have been volunteering at the Old Fort since springtime. They have chopped wood, swept the buildings, and made sure the structures were stocked with enough wood for the volunteers.
The goal of the program is to equip the men with what they need to lead a full life. Phase Reentry coordinator David Pitcher said that community involvement is a big part of that.
“Becoming an active participant in your community is a large component of that so we love being able to see the men excited about being able to come out and engage in really positive volunteer opportunities throughout Fort Wayne so that they can not only invest part of themselves in this city but then be able to see other members come out and really enjoy the fruits of their labor.”
Booker Rogers, 52, has been out for about a week after spending nine years behind bars. He said this program has made all the difference in just that short time.
“Without them, I probably would’ve violated probation like two days ago.”
Part of the problem is their criminal record holds them back from a lot of opportunities. It is a hurdle that Phase Reentry has helped them overcome.
“There’s many, many things that we come to where doors are shut in our face,” said Rodger Courtney, 54, who has been taking part in the program since late January. “Since everything has this spiritual sense to it, or I should say God-given sense to it, it’s just like the doors keep opening up.”
The experience is one the men say will have a lasting positive effect on their lives as they adjust to life outside of prison.
“This is taking me in the right direction,” said Rogers. “It’s a road I see ahead of me. Yeah, it’s a hill and I know I got to climb the hill but I’m going to continue to climb the hill because I see there’s a light in front of it.”
Their help has been appreciated by the Old Fort as well. While the Fort sees several groups looking for volunteer opportunities, the consistent help provided by the Phase Reentry men has moved their work easier.
“Many of the things that they help with simply one person can’t do,” said Bob Jones, Vice President of the Old Fort’s Board of Directors. “David [Pritcher] is very well organized, he’s passionate. The men that come with him are enthusiastic and I just love working side-by-side with them.”
Because of the positive reaction from the men in the program and the Old Fort, the Rescue Mission plans on keeping the volunteering component as a group activity going forward.