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Group assisting released parents looking to expand

Kokomo agency helping those released from prison ready for expansion into new building

Posted on Aug. 7, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. | Updated on Aug. 7, 2014 at 10:50 a.m.

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — When Gilead House got off the ground in 1998, it focused primarily on helping women with addictions.

Two years ago, a mentoring incarcerated parents grant from the Department of Justice enabled the agency to start working with men as well.

The expansion of programs and classes has left Gilead House cramped for space at its current location on South Webster Street.

Now, with the possible help of another grant and the generosity of a local business owner, the agency is set to move into a larger facility, which will help expand its current programs and further help previously incarcerated individuals as they re-enter society and become productive citizens.

“I feel really blessed that we, as small as we are, received the grant,” Gilead House Executive Director Reba Harris told the Kokomo Tribune (http://bit.ly/1ogqr2N ).

“No one else in the state of Indiana received the grant. When they looked around Kokomo, no one was doing anything to help these people except for what little we were doing. So, it really enhances what we’ve been doing. The property is a blessing. John and Patty (O’Donnell), all they’ve asked of us is to keep doing what we’re doing.”

John O’Donnell, the CEO of Kokomo Opalescent Glass, and his wife Patty, became involved with Gilead House through Gilead’s fundraising auctions. Patty eventually became a board member.

John heard first-hand the stories of the women who have benefited from the rehabilitation work done at Gilead House. He wanted to invest further.

The old YWCA building at the corner of Sycamore Street and Apperson Way, which most recently housed Little Learners Too, came up for sale, and the O’Donnell’s purchased the property. Gilead House will now use the building rent-free for its operations, which will be vastly expanded with the extra square footage and grant money from the Department of Justice.

“Reba has done this for a number of years, and she’s had a really good experience of helping people in need, people who have made some mistakes in their lives and want to turn things around,” John said. “Many of them who have stuck with her have been able to turn their lives around. She’s had a true commitment to helping people in need.”

It was a godsend for Harris and staff. Gilead House was in desperate need of more room after the grant money brought in an influx of people to its programs. The agency is hoping to receive the next grant, called the Mentoring Inmates Re-entry Program, in October. It’s a year-long grant which can help people who aren’t parents, as well. The grant, and the new building with more space, will be able to serve as a halfway house of sorts as individuals get out of prison and start their lives anew.

“The Department of Justice wants people stabilized,” Harris explained. “We have people getting out of jail with nowhere to go, and they end up going back to where they came from. The Department of Justice is saying we want them stabilized if they are high-risk or medium-to-high risk and have no safe place to go. We want them stabilized for a few weeks before they go back into the community, and help them with jobs and (housing).”

The expansion will also mean an expansion of staff for the agency, which the grant will help cover. In the past, Gilead House has had to use facilities such as Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church for some of its programs. It will no long have to do that.

“We’ll have plenty of room,” Harris said. “We’ll be able to have more programs for our people. And as we open it up, we’ll be able to ask other agencies if they’d like to use our facility, because it’s large. Things we’ve been paying for and running out and renting, now we can actually use that building for ourselves and other agencies.”

Gilead House offers a variety of classes already, including men’s and women’s support groups, anger management training, workforce re-entry and faith-based 12-step meetings. One of the additional offerings that could be added with the new grant is motherhood and fatherhood programs.

“They feel because they have the background they do, they don’t feel important and someone (else) has the children,” Harris explained. “When I’m talking about parenting classes, It’s really a class to understand the importance of a father in the life of their children, and the mother also.”

Gilead House is hoping to be all moved in to its new facility by the end of August, with a grand opening tentatively scheduled for the middle of September. But the agency is seeking donations to offset the cost of the move. Proceeds from the fifth-annual Steps for Recovery 5K run and walk will go toward those costs, but additional donations are welcomed and needed.

“It costs money to move,” Harris said. “The 5K is part of our normal fundraiser, but we’re asking people to look a little deeper and . send us a check and say, ‘Here, this is to help you move it.‘ “

Information from: Kokomo Tribune, http://www.ktonline.com


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