In the Gateway City of St. Louis, MO, FOCUS Director, Fr. Matthew Mcdonald and a handful of FOCUS volunteers have been reaching out to ex-offenders, walking with them on their journey back to a life on the outside. This is one volunteer’s experience.
About 6 months ago I randomly replied to a request for FOCUS volunteers to work with ex-offenders in St. Louis. I have never served in this capacity, and I was a little nervous, although working with this population has been on my mind off-and-on for years.
I thought that I had a good understanding of the challenges that those in and returning from prison experience and I sympathized, but it wasn’t until I sat face-to-face with these individuals and listened to their stories that I truly began to comprehend how incarceration impacts a person, their family, and loved ones.
Since I have started my volunteer work with FOCUS I have had the opportunity to contribute to conversations with ex-offenders, serve meals, help with the food pantry and clothes closet, and visit a regional prison to work with soon-to-be released individuals on their job interview skills.
I am grateful to Father Matthew of FOCUS Gateway City and to FOCUS North America for allowing me the opportunity to learn, grow and hopefully make my small contribution.