Sister Atkinson Top 3 Finalist for National Award

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One woman's creative idea has lead to the start of a program in downtown Bismarck that helps those in need during times of transition.

Sister Kathleen Atkinson and her volunteers offer support to former prisoners, the homeless and at-risk kids.

After only a year, Atkinson's program, Ministry on the Margins, is gaining national attention.

She says started the Ministry on the Margins when she heard one of her bible study students was released and expected to restart his life with no one to lean on.

The idea of starting a prison-to-society re-entry program wasn't difficult. "It was as simple as saying I'll pick you up," Atkinson said.

Entering its second year, the program has already helped keep 93 percent of its participants from going back to jail.

That's why she was surprised when she found out she was one of three finalist for the Lumen Christi Award. She says the first thing she could say was "Whoa!"

Atkinson says she's grateful for the honor and humbled to be nominated for one of highest honors given by the Catholic Extension.

But, she doesn't feel like a super hero. She says the people who are facing the world without anyone's support are the real heroes.

Like Don Trowbridge, a participant in Ministry on the Margins support groups, who became homeless when he was 18.

Trowbridge says he had moved to Fargo, from Williston and was completely alone, "I didn't have a place to go. I didn't know anybody down there, so I just found an old cardboard box and slept in the cardboard box."

After living on the streets for three years, Trowbridge was back on his feet with the help of a friend. He had a steady job and a roof over his head, but made a few bad decisions and went to prison for a decade.

Like many former prison inmates, he had no one to turn to when he was released. He says he was afraid to re-enter society.

"On the day I was released, I was scared. I looked a guy who was opening the door to let me out and told him I didn't want to leave," admits Trowbridge. "I haven't seen the outside of these walls for ten years. I go, I don't know what to expect but somehow I just made it.... and right now it's been 10 months since I've been out and this August 5th will be a year for me."

He's grateful for Atkinson's program.

"I just turned my back against God, but ever since I've been coming here it's changed my life," said Trowbridge.

Atkinson and her group of volunteers provide people just like Trowbridge a fighting second chance and the family they need to look after them.

For more information on the Ministry on the Margins visit their website,