Nonprofit in need of volunteers to fight recidivismSeptember 27, 2019
By LEANN BURKE
JASPER — For Dave Schenetzki of Jasper, being part of Churches Embracing Offenders offers the opportunity to share love and compassion.
Schenetzki and his wife, Michelle, have been involved with Churches Embracing Offenders — CEO — since it came to Dubois County in 2014. Michelle currently serves on the board, and Dave works directly with clients.
CEO’s goal is to reduce recidivism rates for nonviolent offenders in the judicial system by connecting them to a church community that can support them as they transition out of the system. According to its mission statement, Churches Embracing Offenders is a nonprofit “dedicated to ministering to the spiritual, physical, emotional and social needs of non-violent offenders living in and returning to the community.” Church committees — groups of three people who meet weekly with the client to offer support and lead the client in Bible study — are a key part of that mission.
“It’s basically a mentorship,” Dave said of being a committee member. “Somebody to lean on; somebody to call when you’re having problems.”
Dave is currently serving on his third committee. He, Jeff Adams of Ferdinand and Eric Sullivan of Jasper meet weekly with Marc Schroy, a client who recently transitioned from work release to house arrest. The men are all members of Victory Assembly of God in Jasper.
For Schroy, the three men — and the congregation at Victory as a whole — have made a difference.
“They’ve taken me in and disregarded my past,” Schroy said. “I know I can call anytime, and they’ll be there for me. And not just me — anybody.”
Each time the group meets, they start with a prayer and talk about their weeks, with everyone sharing about their struggles and successes. After that, they move into the lesson for the week. This week, Schroy and his committee are discussing turning your life over to Jesus. The lesson focuses on the acronym TURN — trust, understand, repent and new life. Each part of the acronym goes with a Bible verse. Understand, for example, goes with Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths.”
After reading that verse, Schroy talked about how he’s come to pray before he makes a choice to seek God’s understanding of a situation rather than relying on his own. That’s one of the key lessons the CEO curriculum tries to teach its clients, and the committees play a key role in teaching it.
Committee members volunteer to serve and are trained through CEO. From there, each committee is matched with a client through a mutual selection process. Currently, CEO has four active committees in churches across Dubois County with one more getting ready to start meeting.
Board member Katrina Buse said the organization has several potential clients who want to enter the program, but no committees to take them in. Right now, committees are the organization’s biggest need. Buse emphasized that CEO is a nondenominational organization and will work with any church in Dubois County that is interested in being part of the ministry.
“Right now, we have clients that want to attend churches that don’t have a committee,” Buse said.
Since its founding, Dubois County’s chapter of CEO has aided 46 clients in several different churches.
While the need is there, forming a committee is not something that should be taken lightly.
“You’ve got to be committed,” Adams said. “A lot of [clients], they’ve never had someone who would be there for them.”
The CEO curriculum is designed to last six months to a year, and the hope is that the committee members remain part of their client’s life long after that.
Compassion, humility and a capacity for forgiveness are also necessities for committee members.
“What is it, seven times 70 times?” Dave said, referring to Matthew 18:22 where Jesus tells his followers, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” in regard to forgiveness.
Dave, Adams and Sullivan all admit there were times in their lives where they could have ended up in the judicial system, had things gone a different way.
Committee members also need to have a thick skin, Dave said.
“A lot of [clients] get out of the judicial system and disappear,” he said. “You don’t hear from them anymore. You try to reach out, but they don’t respond.”
But there are also those who do change their lives, Dave said, and those cases are what keeps him involved with CEO committees.
Schroy plans to be one of the ones who sticks around.
“We learn from our mistakes and move on,” Schroy said. “It’s a lot easier when you have guys like this to help you out.”
Anyone interested in serving on a committee or getting involved in CEO another way can contact Buse at 812-481-2017. There is a committee training scheduled for Tuesday, with more to follow.
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