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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Ministry, fundraisers help ex-prisoners succeed

Friday, October 26, 2012

Paul Abbott, of Le Mars, knows what it's like to leave prison with only the clothes on his back and $100 in his pocket.

He was released from the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility May 24 after serving 3 1/2 years for vehicular homicide.

"Coming out, it's hard on a lot of guys," Abbott said. "It was hard on me."

Abbott said his return was made easier with help from the New Roads Reentry Ministry Team.

"I had nothing on the outside," he said. "They found a place for me to live. They had funds to clothe me, to find me food, just the essentials you don't really think about."

New Roads Reentry Ministry team is comprised of 11 active members from the Le Mars area who assist men choosing to settle in the Le Mars area upon their release from prison.

Team member Cheryl Juhl said the group is an extension of The Church of the Damascus Road, a prison congregation within the walls of the Fort Dodge and Rockwell City state prisons.

"There are (reentry) teams throughout the state that have been active for many years," she said. "We've not had a team in Le Mars until this year."

In addition to caring for his basic needs, Abbot said the team also supported him mentally, spiritually and emotionally.

For example, team members introduced him to area pastors, invited him to church functions and took him to different churches.

"They're there to support me, to be that phone call, to be that ride, just to be there for you," Abbott said. "That's what means so much."

After being in prison with its strict rules and schedules for 3 1/2 years, being on the outside was overwhelming, he said.

"Coming out here to the openness and freedom, you have to take a step back and say what do I do?" he said. "The team definitely helps with that, too."

Team members help ex-prisoners such as Abbott find their footing by helping pay the first month or two of rent or utility and housing deposits or buying clothes, Juhl said.

"We work with them until they can get a job and pay their own bills," she said. "We continue to be a support system to them up to a year."

Juhl estimated the reentry team spends between $1,500 and $2,000 per man.

Currently the team is assisting two men and will soon begin working with a third, she said.

"We have to raise that money," Juhl said. "We have had several tip night fundraisers through the Pizza Ranch."

The reentry team hopes to raise more money toward its ministry with a concert next Friday, Nov. 2, at Rejoice! Community Church, 1320 Third Ave. S.E., in Le Mars.

This Side of Sunday, a country/blues/southern rock band from the Council Bluffs-Omaha, Neb., area, will perform at the 7 p.m. concert.

Admission will be charged at the door.

Children 10 and under are free. Admission will be half-price for students through grade 12.

"The older kids I think are really going to enjoy this," Juhl said. "It's just a group that I think is going to appeal to all ages."

Doors open at 6 p.m. Nov. 2 at the church. Hot dogs, taverns and chili will be sold.

Not all men who leave prison are eligible to work with the New Roads Reentry Ministry team.

Men have to be members of The Church of the Damascus Road congregation and go through an application process while still in prison to be considered.

That included a written application and a face-to-face interview, Abbott said.

Juhl explained that the applicants' track record within the church is reviewed.

"Our resources are limited so we want to put the money into the guys who really have a good chance of succeeding," she said.

Abbott, a member of The Church of the Damascus Road congregation in prison since 2009 and president of the inside council until his release, fit the bill.

In the months since his release from prison, Abbott has found employment, started online courses through the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Seminary and settled into the community.

He credits his success to the New Roads Reentry Ministry team, which he has since become a member of.

"It does help people," he said. "It transforms people with the help of the Lord."

Both Abbott and Juhl encouraged people in the community to consider becoming New Roads Reentry Ministry team members.

"We're always looking for people, help, support, prayers, those things," Abbott said.

Anyone interested in becoming a team member or for more information can call Juhl at 712-540-6025 or her husband, Mark, at 712-540-1391.

"It's good for everybody involved," Abbott said. "Personally, it's been a blessing for me."

New Roads Reentry Ministry fundraiser

Friday, Nov. 2

7 p.m. This Side of Sunday concert

6-7 p.m. taverns, hot dogs and chili for sale

Rejoice! Community Church, 1320 Third Ave. S.E., Le Mars

Admission charged, 10 and under free

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