The Meaning of Epiphany
Epiphany is a mentoring program for ex-offenders sponsored by the UCONN Cooperative Extension System that is carried on by faith communities. Epiphany creates a network of support to enable ex-offenders to build successful lives in society.
Epiphany’s pilot program began at Calvary-St. George’s Church in Bridgeport during 2005. It is modeled after the New Life Program initiated by Christ the King Church in Old Lyme, Connecticut. New Life helps ex- offenders deal with tasks such as obtaining a driver’s license, finding housing, searching for a job, and accessing food and clothing. Begun under the direction of the Reverend Ellen Kennedy, Associate at Calvary-St. George’s, the church has spent most of the year developing and implementing a pilot-mentoring project.
Funding for the Epiphany Program Pilot came from grants received from the Inner City Foundation of Charity and Education, Bridgeport through John Santa, as well as the Mission Development Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut. The Isaiah Prison Ministry of St. James Episcopal Church, Preston served as the fiduciary agent.
We began by enlisting the support of volunteers from the church. During the summer the Reverend Kennedy and Cherry Czuba of the UCONN Cooperative Extension System, hosted a series of nine hours of workshops designed to train volunteers as mentors for ex-offenders and resource team members to support the mentors. Among the first steps in the training process was to learn about the roles and responsibilities of a mentor, as well as the special relationships that are necessary with ex-offenders. Since the mentors had not worked with offenders in the past, the workshops also provided a profile of the mentees who would become part of the Epiphany Program.
In additional workshops, mentors met with representatives from social service agencies in the Bridgeport community, including Miracle House, Progressive Associates, Inc, the Council of Church’s Co-Op Center, the Family Services Woodfield and the Center for Women and Families. Each representative described his/her agency and the resources it provided for helping an ex-offender build a new life in society to help ex-offenders deal with tasks. Each agency can serve as an important resource that works with the mentor/mentee partnership.
Mentors and Mentees-A Partnership
During the fall of 2005, the Epiphany Program began working with our first mentee Ms. D, identified by our Prison Liaison Coordinator, The Reverend Valerie Dixon, who works at Sacred Place, York Correctional Institution (YCI). Two of our volunteer mentors, Marva King and Kristin Miles, served as a team to help begin her new life in Bridgeport. She had become highly committed to the Epiphany concept during her incarceration at YCI. As a result of a culinary arts certificate received at YCI, Ms. D was qualified to become a cook and, shortly after coming to the area, she found a job at a diner in the greater Bridgeport area. Ms. King and Ms. Miles also assisted her in setting priorities, developing her resume, preparing for job interviews, and accessing the local clothing closet and food pantries.
“Ms. D knows what she wants and works hard.” Marva said. “She read the newspaper want ads and called to answer an ad for a job. Ms. D is so positive that Kristin and I feel very lucky to have her as our first mentee. It gives us hope,” Marva added.
As Kristin explained, “Ms. D makes the mentors look good. I am spiritually nourished by her.” The mentors have worked closely with Ms. D helping her find clothing, shop for food, and providing her with emotional support. “I can pick up the phone and Kristin and Marva are there,” Ms. D said. Marva and Kristin went with Ms. D to Family Services Woodfield to help her select some clothing.
Ms. D experienced a spiritual awakening through programs offered at Sacred Place, Inc. She was baptized and received her first communion. “It was my wake up call,” she said. The experience with her, our first mentee, has been so successful that the Epiphany Project is currently preparing to begin a relationship with another ex-offender. Marva and Kristin shared their experiences with the other volunteers, as a second team enthusiastically began to prepare for the next mentoring relationship. Other members of the team include Rowena Kemp and Gwendolyn Johnson as mentors and Richard Worth as public relations resource team member and Shirley Gette as community resource team member. Meanwhile, Epiphany is preparing a training manual for additional faith communities and planning to do more training in March.
How We Got Here?
In 2003 The Reverend Dianne Warley, Deacon St. John’s Episcopal Church, Niantic and Cherry Czuba, UCONN Cooperative Extension Educator met members of the New Life Prison Ministry, an interfaith ministry of Christ the King Roman Catholic Church, Old Lyme at the home of the Reverend Laurie Etter, chaplain at York Correctional Institution and also co- director of Sacred Place, Inc. New Life has mentored over 80 ex-offenders over the last 15 years and has an 85% success rate. Inspired by their results, Rev. Warley and Ms. Czuba first joined New Life and then created the Epiphany design team to replicate and expand their efforts statewide.
In the fall of 2003 a design team was recruited and began holding monthly meetings. Design team members include the following: Deputy Warden, Sandra Bundy, Reverend Valerie Dixon, Reverend Ellen Kennedy, retired Dept of Correction counselor Ann Koletsky, United Way Info-Line counselor, Allison Southworth, Reverend Diane Warley, Cherry Czuba and representatives from New Life, Eleanor Bonafonte, Kathleen Flaherty, Geraldine Moriarty, Eleanor Rickel. The design team developed four major goals: develop and implement a pilot mentoring program, write a theoretically based “how-to” manual for faith communities wishing to join the Epiphany network, conduct a two-day training conference for faith communities working with ex-offenders, and provide initial and ongoing support for faith communities joining the network. Dr. Bari Dworken, UCONN Extension Educator, Organization Development conducted a strategic planning process that assisted the design team in reviewing its goals and objectives and also planning for the future.
How Faith Communities Can Support
For further information on participating in the Calvary St. George’s Church, Bridgeport pilot, initiating a mentoring project in your faith community, contributing funds or support or serving on the design team call 203-333-5116 x 103.
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last update 12/16/2007