Three years ago, Palo Verde residents Charlene Clausen and Romelle Durand began giving back by helping women with reentry after incarceration. They believe that people deserve a second chance. They also facilitate book clubs at the women’s prison in Goodyear, as well as help implement a six-week class three times a year that teaches the eight Leadership Principles based on the ATHENA International model. With over 450 graduates of the program, Gina’s Team (www.ginasteam.org) has an impressive 5 percent recidivism rate compared to 60 percent state/nationally. Together, we do make a difference!
Others in our community have taken notice and become involved by providing funds/items that are necessary to help the women get back on their feet once they walk through the gate to freedom. The women come out of prison with next to nothing; they have a record as a felon, typically have little contact with family and friends, no job and very little money. Every aspect of one’s life is affected by incarceration. So once the time has been served, how does one begin a life anew?
That’s where the Welcome Back team comes in. Charlene and Romelle gather clothing, shoes, hygiene, a weekly bus pass, gift cards (when available), groceries and resource information to present to the former inmate on the day of her release. They drive to Perryville prison (51 miles from Sun Lakes), present a plastic bag of “release” clothing to an officer at the gate and then sit in the car waiting for the women to walk to their freedom.
A big hug and a hearty “Welcome Back” gets the day started and off they go to fulfill all of the errands that need attention. Included in the day are visits to the DMV, Parole and Social Security offices. Lunch of their choice is provided, followed by a stop at St. Mary’s Food Bank for an emergency food box and then on to the halfway house or release address. It is a full day starting at 8:00 a.m. and ends about 3:00 p.m. with a return to Sun Lakes.
The Welcome Back team is most grateful for the women who help make the work they do more meaningful. If you’d like more information about how you can help or would like to donate funds for bus passes or groceries, please contact Charlene Clausen at 480-748-0618 or Romelle Durand at 602-315-1707. They are not able to take donations of clothing as the storage space is minimal in Charlene’s garage. Please help them help our sisters in orange turn their lives around.