Building Bonds at The Old Fort
Can you imagine wanting to do something good and volunteer, but being told you can’t? That was the issue facing Rescue Mission Phase Re-Entry Coordinator, Dave Pitcher. Phase Re-Entry is a fairly new initiative at The Rescue Mission, tailored for men just out of long-term incarceration.
Pitcher was looking for volunteer opportunities for the men in Phase Re-Entry, as they learn a lot about building community.
“There are two sides to community: those who support us, and those who we support,” Pitcher said. “By volunteering, we actively support our community.”
But Pitcher quickly found few places were willing to allow convicted felons to volunteer with their organization.
“These men have served their time and are free, yet many doors remain closed to them,” Pitcher said.
Someone suggested that Pitcher reach out to Bob Jones with The Old Fort. Jones didn’t respond with trepidation, fear, or judgment. Pitcher saw a true brother in Christ in Jones, who has welcomed the Phase Re-Entry participants with open arms. Jones is a retired elementary teacher who does an excellent job of sharing his encyclopedic knowledge of The Old Fort with the men while they volunteer.
“Jones’s knowledge really deepens our appreciation for the incredible structures and spaces in which we are volunteering,” Pitcher said.
In their first few volunteer experiences at The Old Fort, men split wood by hand, planted high-traffic sod, worked in the garden, moved gravel, stocked rooms with firewood, and cleaned and swept the buildings.
“By volunteering at The Old Fort we are able to help support an exciting local tourist attraction and are given the opportunity to physically delve into the history of our city,” Pitcher said. “We become a part of the story of Fort Wayne, its people, and its legacy. Staff and Re-Entry participants volunteer alongside one another at The Old Fort, dissolving boundaries and tackling tasks shoulder-to-shoulder, as members of the Body of Christ, bothers striving towards a common goal.”
Phase Re-Entry men have loved the experience so far, and it’s changed the way they look at volunteering. It’s also been a positive experience for staff.
“What I have enjoyed the most is building relationships with these men outside the office,” Pitcher said. “In The Old Fort there is no desk between us, just the clean air and a sense that we are contributing to something very special. I know the men are excited to return as soon as possible!”