Merrill – The BRIDGE Prison Ministry

The BRIDGE Group (800x473)Merrill has been “outside” for only a few months. He credits The BRIDGE with helping him get used to life after being released from prison. “We talked about values when I was at OCI (the Ontario Correctional Institution) but I realize it’s a lot harder on the outside. The BRIDGE helped me find a place to live and helped me to find employment two weeks after I got out. A few weeks ago I had a bit of a relapse. I placed a call to The BRIDGE and within 15 minutes they had gotten back to me. Without that support, I would have been in real trouble. The BRIDGE shows be options that I didn’t know that I had. Here I have friends, people who care about me. I need The BRIDGE. This is where I need to be now. This is what I need to be doing. I appreciate all that The BRIDGE has done for me.”

Stewart – The BRIDGE Prison Ministry

The BRIDGE Group (800x473)“Coming here helps me face my fears.” Stewart credits The BRIDGE with helping him to build his self-esteem and sense of self-worth. “When I got out of OCI (the Ontario Correctional Institution), I had no idea how I was going to cope. Garry (Glowacki, Executive Director) and Mark (The Rev. Mark Stephen, Community Worker) helped me to see that thing were going to be okay. They helped me find work and helped me move into my apartment.” Stewart told me that originally he was surprised that anyone would go out of their way to help someone like him. “The BRIDGE is a community of caring, respect, and unconditional love. Not being judged really means a lot to me. I know that I have someone to call if I ever find myself close to reoffending.” Stewart hopes that one day he will be able to reconnect with his family. “I want to make amends and normalize those relationships. It could happen for me because it has happened for others. I want to become happy and content and this group helps me to see that it is possible. The other guys share their struggles, but they are happy.”

Dominic – The BRIDGE Prison Ministry

“I’ve been The BRIDGE Group (800x473)coming to The BRIDGE for over 8 years. I come for the fellowship, the openness, and the trust. In the beginning, I had a couple of relapses and shame kept me from asking for help. But I have learned that I can share my experiences with others who have been there and, hopefully, I will be able to help others as I have been helped over the years. I’ve got myself a two-bedroom apartment and I rent a room to other guys from The BRIDGE. I’ve reconnected with my family and friends. They know that I come here and they support me. They check in on me to see how I’m doing.”

Eleanor – All Saints Church – Community Centre

All Saints Eleanor (2) (360x640)Eleanor is a regular at the Thursday Women’s Drop-in at All Saints Church – Community Centre. She is very outgoing and has a twinkle in her eye that helps to hide the pain she suffers from chronic medical conditions. When I asked her about the difference that All Saints makes in her life, she told me that she enjoys coming to the drop-in on Thursdays to play cards, have a hot lunch, do crafts, and visit the clothing bank. “I’ve lived in this community for over 45 years and I see a lot of people who struggle with mental illness. I worked at 416 (416 Community Support for Women) for years. The girls on the streets call me ‘Mom.’ My own daughter is on the street…she’s quite sick but she is being treated for her medical condition and I pray that she will get well. But now, with my disabilities, I’m in therapy and it’s hard to get out. If it wasn’t for the Women’s Drop-in, I’d be home all alone.” I asked Eleanor to tell me what gives her hope for the future. She said “I have a deep faith and I pray every day.”