Tattoo removal fosters second chances

Elkhart Truth file photoJail Ministry of Elkhart County and Maple City Health Care Center are teaming up to help people who want to remove tattoos that are violent, racist or gang-related.

GOSHEN — Organizers are hoping an expanded tattoo removal program will help Goshen residents break free from past mistakes.

Jail Ministry of Elkhart County and Maple City Health Care Center are collaborating to help people who want to improve their lives but who are stuck with tattoos that are violent, racist or gang-related.

Since August, Jail Ministry has provided tattoo removal for people incarcerated in the Elkhart County Jail. The expanded program will now help people after they leave the jail.

Maple City Health Care Center provides space and staff for the program outside of the jail. The expanded program is located at Vista Community Health Center, one of Maple City’s two sites.

To remove the tattoos, a trained operator uses a laser that breaks up the pigment in the tattoo so that the body’s immune system flushes the ink particles away.

Last Saturday, the first day of the expanded program, Randall Sullivan was the first person to receive treatment.

“I’m a different person, a better person than when I got these tattoos,” Sullivan said. “Losing these tattoos makes me feel a big relief.”

Cory Martin, chaplain of the Elkhart County Jail Ministry, started the tattoo removal program in the jail and helped Maple City with the expansion. “These tattoos not only tie a person to past mistakes, a tattoo can be a barrier to finding work,” Martin said. “Tattoos can be dangerous for people who want to leave a gang.”

Removing a tattoo requires five to 10 sessions with six weeks between each session. Commercial business charge $3,000 to $5,000 to remove one large tattoo.

“As with all of the care that we provide for our patients, we want our tattoo removal to be affordable,” said James Nelson Gingerich, guardian of vision at Maple City Health Care Center. “We invite people to donate what they can afford for the tattoo removal sessions.”

Bobby and Lisa Gunnoe are two of the laser operators working for Maple City Health Care Center. Both are former inmates who are now members of St. Mark’s Methodist Church.

“When I’m taking off someone’s tattoo, it feels like a holy moment,” Bobby Gunnoe said. “It’s an act of forgiveness and a chance for this person to get free of the chains of the past.”

Donations from the Community Foundation of Elkhart County and various Elkhart County businesses helped to purchase the laser equipment and to train operators.

Maple City Health Care Center fosters a healthy community by providing and promoting high quality, affordable, integrated and accessible health care. Jail Ministry of Elkhart County serves people in the Elkhart County Jail and helps people re-enter the community after leaving the jail.

Source: Maple City Health Care Center

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