Hope Network West Michigan
Grand Rapids, MI
New Partnership connects businesses with citizens re-entering society
GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan – Partners Worldwide, Hope Network and Celebration Fellowship are partnering to solve an important problem—prisoner re-entry, especially employment for these returning citizens. This is an issue facing the West Michigan area, as well as the rest of the country. This June, a group of over 30 individuals ranging from business professionals to non-profit leaders met at the Goei Center to share a meal and set a vision for transformation in their community. This June, a group of over 30 individuals ranging from business professionals to non-profit leaders met at the Goei Center to share a meal and set a vision for transformation in their community.
Ron Stuursma from Hope Network, a social services non-profit organization in West Michigan, shared that in metropolitan Grand Rapids alone, nearly 4,000 convicted felons return to their community each year. On average, the unemployment rate of released inmates is over 50%, meaning few opportunities for income to support their families, and little to no options for professional development. And, close to the nationwide rate, about 50% of them will commit another offense and be back behind bars.
“The opportunity, we feel, is to redeem the prisoner,” says Stuursma, “restore the family, heal the victim, and build the community.”
Jim Tuinstra, a member of the Partners Worldwide board, is working to grow the partnership between Hope Network and Celebration Fellowship, a church congregation at Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility. Jim shared with the group about his experience in prison ministry and the opportunities for transformation in the lives of prisoners while they are still incarcerated and after they are released.
As a last step in the re-entry process, Bellamy Creek is where prisoners spend their last six months before being released. Those ministering in that facility have the opportunity to personally get to know the inmates just prior to their return to the community.
Jim’s vision is for a program would help these men to use their God-given gifts, abilities and potential to the fullest—by equipping businesses in West Michigan to employ and encourage other businesses in the process. This partnership being developed will also match returning citizens with mentoring relationships. It will be a comprehensive solution to provide housing options, rehabilitation, and employment training and opportunities. “Faith-based community businesses are the missing ingredient,” according to Ron.
Jim told the story of a current inmate and member of the Celebration Fellowship congregation who ministered to a corrections officer and nurse assigned to care for him while in the midst of suffering from a heart attack himself. “God can use any of us,” Tuinstra said, “and we really want Christian businesspeople to consider using their business as a mission to develop relationships—to offer employment opportunities for people to become what they can.”