Kansas Everence chapter helps ex-prisioners
Returning citizen care kits packed and provided
Editor’s note: Text in italics is from MCC Central States website
In Kansas, men and women walk out of prison with $100 or less, the clothing on their backs and a bus ticket to wherever they have been paroled.
With those resources, they need to find a place to live and food to eat, get valid identification so they can apply for employment and find support to keep them from returning to prison.
Working Men of Christ in Wichita helps returning citizens navigate these challenges by providing free housing for nine months, helping them to find a church family and providing mentoring and accountability.
Mennonite Central Committee Central States partners with WMOC by providing returning citizen care kits to the men and women WMOC supports. Volunteers donate the supplies – underwear, socks, undershirts and various hygiene supplies – and pack these new kits at MCC Central States Material Resources Center.
These kits, which Central States began collecting in 2016, are delivered to the WMOC office in Wichita. Staff members distribute the kits to WMOC’s six houses in Wichita and Topeka.
"We place each kit on the made-up bed of each new resident that enters one of our six homes,” explains Spencer Lindsay, executive director for WMOC. “MCC kits help us to use our limited resources to help pay the bill for them to live with us until they find jobs.”
The kits also send a message of compassion.
“The returning citizen care kit says someone else is thinking about me,” said Rachel Carmill, a WMOC house mentor. “It helps break down barriers because the bag is already waiting, like a gift.”
“You feel alone when you get out of prison,” explained Rachel Cartmill, a house mentor at one of the houses in Wichita. “The MCC kits feel very personal. Women are sometimes very nervous coming to live here and the kit breaks that. It tells them that someone took the time to make this for me, and that helps them feel at home.”
A local Everence® chapter grant purchased supplies for returning citizen care kits. Local Everence staff and board members spent an evening at the MCC Material Resource Center in North Newton, Kansas, packing kits.
The group packed more than 90 kits that evening, marking the largest single donation of returning citizen care kits that MCC and WMOC have experienced to date.