Ministry Helps Inmates Get Back On Their Feet - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Ministry Helps Inmates Get Back On Their Feet

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There are a lot of kind-hearted people in North Dakota, who donate of their time and their means to help others. And still, there are those who can still fall through the cracks.

It's the objective of Ministry on the Margins to find those people and lift them up.

It's not big or flashy, but it fills a need. This new downtown location for Ministry on the Margins is larger than the old one, with an expanded food pantry. One thing that makes it different is that it's open Thursday evenings, after people get off work. And people can receive food weekly, making it easier to carry when they have no transportation.

"I think when I retired, I decided we wanted to give back. And we looked at doing it internationally, then we looked at doing it nationally. And then we looked here in Bismarck. And, you know, I realized we have a tremendous amount of people who have needs that are not being met in this community," says Kathy Schneider of the ministry's leadership team. 

And that includes ex-cons. Sister Kathleen Atkinson began this ministry after starting a Bible study group at the state penitentiary. It was then she realized that those who are released are often poorly equipped for life on the outside.

"He was from northeastern North Dakota, so he had never been in Bismarck, except he had been brought to Bismarck, the state pen, in a prison van, in the state penitentiary for four years. And now he's expected to move into Bismarck, where he knows no one, and make a successful re-entry," says Atkinson.

There are other places that can help with the transition, but Sister Kathleen's approach includes social interaction to encourage eye contact and a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for support services.

"I got myself established through their help. So, when I come now, most of the time, it's just to, if they need help with something, or, you know, volunteering, they know they can always call me because they've helped me tremendously," says James Huston.

Sister Kathleen says two thirds of released inmates end up returning to prison. But of the 18 her ministry has helped so far, only one is back behind bars.

Ministry on the Margins is at 115 North 2nd St., and the food pantry is open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

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