A life-changing visit now improves the lives of others
When Melissa took a mission trip, it propelled her to a calling that would change her life and those of women inmates with unique and challenging needs.
The trip that started the mission
Melissa, a manager in accounts payable, took a life-changing trip some years back. Little did she realize it would have a profound impact on many other women—inmates on the cusp of being released from prison.
“Back in 2013, I went on a mission trip to Honduras and visited a women’s prison. When I got back to the States, I felt like there was more to this. I felt compelled to help women inmates here transition back into society.”
What moved Melissa was seeing firsthand the struggles and pain of imprisoned women who are motivated to improve their lives in the face of intense pressures to the contrary. When Melissa came home, she could not erase the images. Her thoughts gravitated to the women serving time in a prison near her own community.
“I needed to pursue this here,” she says. “It was close to my heart. If you can help one person, it makes a significant difference.”
One volunteer day becomes many
Melissa volunteered at the local prison. One volunteer day turned to two; two led to three; and so on. Fellow associates have since joined her, as have family and friends.
“I teach a 12-step program once a week, and every other week I do a mentor program to help them develop realistic goals for when they leave prison,” she says, which often involve things as basic as housing, employment, child support and how to get a driver’s license.
“We work together to create attainable and realistic goals. I call it ‘restored citizenship’. We are helping them back into society as restored citizens,” Melissa says.
The focus is on women who have less than two years remaining on their sentences and are highly motivated to change their lives for the better.
Help on the outside
Her work on the inside motivated her to extend the effort outside the prison walls. Melissa recognized it was one thing to mentor women before their release. What they also needed was help on the outside to guide them to the completion of those goals.
This prompted her to form two affiliated nonprofits—To Whom It May Concern and R2Freedom—that work with women post release. They raise money through the sale of t-shirts featuring designs influenced by women in the prison. All proceeds go to support the women who have been released, helping ease the financial burden that comes from ‘restoring citizenship’.