Here we are!
Updated: Jun 14
“Once upon a time…” two young African-Americans, Craig Whilby and Jamil Allen, gave a presentation at the Detroit Catholic Pastoral Alliance’s Membership meeting in Dec., 2020. Their topic was: “Our Lives as Returning Citizens.”
Both had served 30+ years in prison, sentenced at the ages of 16-17 years. At this meeting, I was mesmerized as they told their stories with such honesty. They said that their hopes, dreams, and vision were to open a center for returning citizens in Detroit. Because of the positive response that they received from so many, they followed-up with practical suggestions on how to make this happen. At our January 2021 meeting of the DCPA’s Community Action Committee, members volunteered to get this project off the ground.
The COVID pandemic limited our efforts for two years. During 2021-22, we were able to locate office space in the St. Elizabeth Community Center on Detroit’s eastside, select the name of the organization (FORC), obtain a logo designed by Sr. Kathy Onderbeke, IHM for our t-shirts, clean, carpet, and paint the two main rooms, obtain office furniture from Marygrove College, advertize for clothing, buy clothes racks, and set up the clothes room, print brochures, and apply for donations and grants. Several individuals and groups have given generously of their time, money, and supplies to help us get going. Here is only one example: the IHM Ministry grants were awarded to FORC in 2020-21, 21-22, and 22-23.
Lastly, as part of our commitment to criminal justice reform, we attended a rally in Lansing, MI to support the Second Chance Bill and Good Time Ballot proposal.
At the beginning of 2022, we were able to hire a part-time Office Manager. Tim Kane, a returning citizen himself, to handle day-to-day needs: welcoming clients who come to the center, answering phone calls, or connecting on the internet. He assists in writing grants and networking with others in the community. The Advisory committee formally became the FORC Board of Directors with the DCPA as our fiduciary. As one of our first actions, we planned an Open House in September, 2022, in which more than 200 visitors attended. Two television stations sent reporters for interviews, and a newspaper covered our event. It was a wonderful official beginning! Twenty clients per month make contact with us and more connections are made daily with similar organizations as ours.
In 2023, we will continue to recruit volunteers, increase donor list, seek grants, sponsor fundraisers, begin a newsletter and seek approval by the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in order to become a vendor and receive funding. In area of criminal justice reform, we hope to appoint a board member to keep us abreast of legislative action in Lansing on a regular basis. So, FORC is a vision, a dream, and now a reality. Our transformation is on-going; our doors are always open to all returning citizens and their families.
Come and see.
By Sister Alice Baker, IHM