It’s a two-hour drive roundtrip from Westwood UMC in Cincinnati to Dayton Correctional Institution. But that didn’t deter five Westwood UMC women from saying “yes” to a new Life Builders team. Last week, their team finally launched and for the next six months, Westwood’s Life Builders will travel twice a month to mentor five of their neighbors currently living at Dayton Correctional.
Led by Barb Vogt the Westwood Life Builders team of Valdasia Merrick, Theresa Roberts, Megan Ohlinger, and Teresa Portis has been preparing and waiting patiently for approval from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) for the past year. According to Barb, the wait was worth it.
“We easily connected with our counterparts inside as they were very excited to be a part of the program, too. Many said we were an answer to prayer. One said she had contacted numerous churches looking for a pastor who would visit her, but NO ONE answered her letters. She had given up and then she was tapped for this program!! Hallelujah, God answered her!”
Life Builders was created by the ODRC as a pathway for people of faith to build mentoring relationships with ODRC residents that goes beyond bible studies or worship services. The All In Community initiative and ODRC work together to recruit and launch Life Builder teams across the Conference as an “in-reach before outreach” ministry. “When possible, we try to make that relational connection with churches and Life Builders participants from the same community,” explains Reba Collins, All In Community Consultant.
According to ODRC Faith-based Initiatives Coordinator Gary Croft, “Studies show that a critical influence and key factor to helping a person change their life and successfully transition back into society is a healthy relationship prior to release that continues once a person returns home. That is why we are so excited to work with the West Ohio Conference because your folks get that, and you have churches all over the place that can provide mentors inside our institutions and a welcoming faith-community on the outside when they are released from our care.”
After one visit, Barb reports that the Westwood team “is already asking what we are going to do if more people from church want to be a part of the program. I said, well, we can start another team!!”
If you are interested in starting or participating in a Life Builders team, contact Reba Collins at rebakco [at] gmail.com.