A helping hand on the journey to a new life

By Pat Hayes

Members of Local 249’s Women’s Committee volunteered with Journey to New Life, a local social service organization that provides opportunities for men and women re-entering life after prison, Oct. 10. The organization, founded in 2013, provides emergency assistance such as shelter, transportation, clothing and other basic services to former prisoners.

Women’s Committee members Dominique Carter, Melody DeCoudres, Nicole D’Andrea, Lynn Brown, Robin Taylor, Stephanie Henderson, Maribell Courtez and NaTisha Johnson worked with a Journey to New Life volunteer coordinator to reorganize clothing donations. “The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted volunteer efforts,” said Women’s Committee Chair Robin Taylor, “we helped organize clothing donations in the men’s and women’s sections and took excess donations to Goodwill.”

Taylor and Erica Eckart, a member of the CAP Committee, plan to return to Journey to New Life later in the month to volunteer in the emergency services section. The committee as a whole is developing a long-term plan to partner with Journey to New Life as part of its community service work.

“Programs like these are what makes our community safer,” says Rita Flynn, Journey to New Life Program Director. “Ninety-five percent of our clients never go back to prison. It just makes sense.”

According to Journey to New Life, the United States has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. “Yet, we are ill-prepared to help former offenders reintegrate into the community once they have served their sentence.”

Men and women leaving prison face many roadblocks to housing, employment, education, financial resources and family reunification. Journey to New Life works to remove those roadblocks.

On average, 67.8 percent of former inmates return to prison after release compared to just five percent of those helped by Journey to New Life.

“All of our members can be very proud of the work our Women’s Committee is doing,” says Local 249 President Jason Starr. “They are among the most active of our committees and their community and social service work reflect well on the local and our membership as a whole.”

The purpose of the union’s Women’s Committee is to educate the women of the local union of labor’s position on local, state and national laws regarding women’s issues, and to provide leadership and educational training for women members so that they may become more active in the local union and seek leadership positions. The committee also informs all union members about women and family issues.

In addition to their ongoing work with Journey to New Life, Local 249’s Women’s Committee is busy preparing for its annual Trunk or Treat Halloween event at the union hall on Oct. 23, according to Taylor, who works on the Transit Paint Sealer Deck doing the pocket job. The committee is also making plans to continue to work with Mother’s Refuge which provides shelter and education to homeless, pregnant and parenting young women.